Sen. Ping Lacson is upset. He has taken umbrage at Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo’s act of publicly complaining over her delayed—and eventually bypassed—confirmation by the Commission on Appointments, of which Lacson is a member. The senator had earlier expressed support for Taguiwalo, lauding the latter for a circular that attempts to put a stop to legislators bagging behest projects for their constituents from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. “That’s compelling reason enough not to oppose your confirmation,” Lacson, a known opponent of pork barrel, declared at a CA hearing.
But when Taguiwalo’s confirmation hearing was postponed last May 17 and the secretary lamented the delay on social media, Lacson’s hackles were raised. As he put it: “Sa lahat nang ayoko yung pine-pressure ako either way. Naghahanap siya ng boto, [so] she should behave. Hindi yung parang nananakot or nang-i-intimidate.” (What I hate the most is when I’m pressured either way. She’s looking for votes, so she should behave, instead of trying to frighten or intimidate us.)
Taguiwalo, along with Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, were eventually bypassed by the CA. The commission specifically cited lack of time to consider the appointments of the three Cabinet members. The
only appointee confirmed by the CA before it terminated hearings in the runup to Congress’ adjournment before June 1 was Alan Peter Cayetano as foreign affairs secretary—and he was the most recent appointee of President Duterte.
Taguiwalo, Mariano and Ubial were three of the administration’s very first picks for the Cabinet. Cayetano, Mr. Duterte’s running mate in the May 2016 elections and a devout defender of the administration’s policies, was appointed head of the Department of Foreign Affairs only last May 10, a day after the lapse of the official one-year ban on appointing to office losing candidates in the last election. He got his confirmation in record time—less than five minutes, with not one objection.
This is the second time that Taguiwalo and Mariano have been bypassed—the equivalent of being ignored, since it’s neither confirmation nor rejection by the CA. As in March when they, along with the career officer Ubial and then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, were left out of the CA’s deliberations, the official reason was the tight schedule.
But, really, how hard is it for these legislators to allot a couple more hours, or days, to sitting down and completing their appraisal of these Cabinet members? Lack of time in this context is a hoary pretext; what appears to be the more plausible reason is the reluctance by a conservative Congress to validate the presence of progressive voices in the Duterte administration.
Taguiwalo is among the most hardworking and straightforward Cabinet members, brooking no sleaze in her department and defying the entrenched, powerful interests of politicians in carrying out the mandate of her office.
Taguiwalo has expressly forbade giving preferential treatment to priority projects pushed by local public officials; Mariano has spearheaded the genuine implementation of agrarian reform, most
recently in his efforts to reclaim land for farmers in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and Lapanday in Davao. Those are bold actions that will never endear
the two to the dynastic, landholding politicians dominating Congress.
But the wonder is why the administration itself, which has the power to crack the whip on its supermajority in Congress, is not pushing more forcefully for Taguiwalo and Mariano. Does it have their back, or not? The nose-to-the-grindstone Taguiwalo has every right to complain about the shabby treatment she has received so far from an entitled CA.
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