MALACAÑANG on Sunday said President Rodrigo Duterte did not mean to attack the integrity of the Commission on Appointments when he said “lobby money” was involved in the rejection of his choice for Environment secretary, Regina Lopez.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President only meant to highlight the existence of “certain vested interests” in the appointment of government officials.
This, he added, did not in any way diminish the integrity of the CA.
“Some members of the commission decided according to principle and conscience and even came out to explain their votes,” said Abella.”©”©
“The President respects the independence of the Commission on Appointments,” he added.
“The fact that he did not interfere during the confirmation process of the erstwhile DENR secretary shows his deference to the body,” he said.
But lawmakers on Sunday denounced allegations that they had been bribed to reject Lopez.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, majority leader for the House’s contingent’s CA, said there was no bribery involved and lamented that administration critics were raising this to gain media attention.
Earlier, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, who filed an impeachment case against President Duterte, sought a congressional probe into the CA brouhaha.
“He must come out with his evidence or else the tables can be turned against him,” Albano said.
An administration ally, Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, said there was no need for either the Senate or the House of Representatives to conduct a probe.
“What piece of legislation can we make out of it? They will investigate themselves? I do not think that is proper,” Tambunting said.
He added that there must be a compelling reason to warrant a congressional investigation.
But Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, a CA member, urged Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to look into allegations that some CA members were influenced by intense lobbying by business interests to reject Lopez.
Sato said Pimentel, as chairman of the CA, must investigate the bribery allegations against members of the appointments body.
“I believe inaction will be a disservice to our people and to our country,” Sato said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson had earlier called for an investigation into allegations that the CA members were influenced by financial consideration, with no less than Duterte saying Lopez was not confirmed because “money talks.”
Sato stressed that the CA is a constitutional body whose mandate is to serve as an effective check to the appointments of the President.
“It is a collegial body composed of representatives from the Senate and the House of Representatives who are duty bound to determine the fitness and qualification of Cabinet appointees free from undue influence,” Sato said.
“Any allegation that undermines the integrity and independence of the CA must be taken seriously,” she added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who has been vocal about his reasons for rejecting Lopez, on Sunday said he was ready to bring up her history of drug dependency and personality disorder during the hearings, but did not do so because it was “too personal.”
Lacson had earlier bristled at Duterte’s suggestion that members of the CA had rejected Lopez due to pressure from lobby groups.
“Do you think I would still give the details why in my view, she was not a qualified appointee?” Lacson said about Lopez, who was rejected by a vote of 16-8.
But in a radio interview Sunday, Lacson brought up the 1975 Supreme Court document that stated that Lopez’s monther Conchita had submitted her to a Pasig court in 1974 to have her committed to a rehabilitation facility due to drug addiction and to determine if she was suffering from a personality disorder.
Lacson also raised Lopez’s all-expense paid trip to Paris last year courtesy of the renewable energy company EcoGlobal Inc., which was also cited in the graft complaint filed against her before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The senator also noted the former Environment secretary did not know what a critical watershed was, when she was asked about it at a CA hearing.
“She said the entire Philippines is a critical watershed area,” Lacson said in Filipino. “That’s the problem with people who are hitting us. This is what they don’t understand or don’t want to understand, because their minds are closed. They like to talk about passion and the fight for social justice, but the Constitution provides limits when we pass laws in Congress.”
In the wake of Lopez’s rejection, Filminera Resources Corp. and Phil. Gold Processing & Refining Corp. urged the government to immediately give “clear directions” to the mining industry.
FRC and PGRPC jointly operate the $250-million Masbate Gold Project in Aroroy. In 2013, B2Gold Corp., a Vancouver-based gold producing company, became a partner of the MGP.
Raymond Neil Mead, president and general manager of PGRPC, said the government and the next Environment secretary should immediately review the rules on the mining industry. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Anna Leah E. Gonzales