THE Commission on Appointments on Wednesday rejected the appointment of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, the third Cabinet official appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to be turned down by the bicameral body.
The vote came after the CA’s committee on labor and social welfare headed by Davao Oriental Rep. Joel Almario recommended the rejection of Taguiwalo’s appointment. Almario did not say how the voting went, but said they reached the majority vote of 13.
Other appointees rejected by the CA were Perfecto Yasay Jr. as Foreign Affairs secretary and Gina Lopez as Environment secretary.
In recommending to dismiss Taguiwalo’s appointment, Almario said they exercised “due diligence” to check whether or not the appointee “suits the position.”
Almario said the committee “looked into all angles of her background and character” to ensure that it based its recommendation on “real truth and solid fact...taking into consideration “the best interest of the people.”
During the past confirmation hearings, he said questions were raised against Taguiwalo’s appointment. Early in his speech, Almario cited Taguiwalo’s participation in the underground movement in her youth.
In her third and final confirmation hearing, Taguiwalo was grilled on the Conditional Cash Transfer program, her views on the proposed national identification system and tax reform program, and her links with the National Democratic Front, which had nominated her for the post.
Under questioning, she admitted that the DSWD has limited capacity to implement the cash transfers intended for poor families under the tax reform program.
Under the tax reform proposal, some 10 million families will receive cash transfers of P200 per month for one year to cushion the impact of the excise tax on fuel.
“If the law is passed, the department will be able to administer the cash transfer for the 4.4 million current beneficiaries [of 4Ps] so it’s going to be a top-up. But the remaining 5.6 million, we won’t be able to handle,” Taguiwalo said.
“Now, [administering 4Ps] is already a heavy burden for our workers,” she told the CA.
Taguiwalo said the DSWD is in discussions with the Department of Finance, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Land Bank of the Philippines on how to best handle the situation.
“It is a challenge right now. I hope the different government agencies can come together so that relief can be given to the poor, given the increases when the bill becomes a law. But I’m not saying it cannot be done. It will be difficult, an administrative challenge but it is not a challenge to our department alone,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the admission of Taguiwalo that the DSWD has a limited capacity to implement the cash transfers under the tax reform proposal just confirms his fears.
In endorsing the confirmation of the appointment of Taguiwalo, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said she should not be dismissed as one of the token leftists in the Cabinet.
“She was not put there as a memento to prove Digong’s Big Tent approach in forming a government. Rather, I believe that she holds the post by virtue of her ability, and not by her affiliation,” said Recto.
She also said Taguiwalo was not in the Duterte Cabinet to represent one color in Digong’s rainbow Cabinet.
“She is there to serve all the colors in the tapestry of our democracy. She represents all of us, all our dreams, all our aspirations for our nation, our people, and our children. She personifies that elusive political ideal that persons of different persuasions can come together for the common good,” said Recto.
“If she is an ideologue, then the ideology she subscribes to is the same one we believe in, and that ideology is to serve the people,” said Recto.
“I am seconding her confirmation because she brings a fresh perspective in the DSWD—and that is to treat not poverty’s symptoms but its roots, for the poor need more than relief, but a release from the social shackles that prevent them from bettering their lives,” he added.
He expressed dismay over her failure to hurdle the CA vote.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said he voted for Taguiwalo’s confirmation because they have been together as members of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines in 2010 until 2013.
He also said Taguiwalo was a member of the faculty when he was chairman of the committee on education when he was congressman.
“And I saw her capability, her integrity and above all, her heart for the poor. And that is her foremost qualification why she should sit as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD],” said Angara as he expressed hope that the next DSWD secretary would possess the same qualifications.
Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan said the Duterte administration lost a committed Cabinet official with the rejection of Taguiwalo.
“As Senator Ralph Recto said, her guts and grit and her experience fighting the Marcos dictatorship, including time as political prisoner in three jails, should have made her confirmation automatic,” said Pangilinan.
In the 14 months that Taguiwalo was at the helm of the DSWD, Pangilinan said, she continued the Aquino administration’s successful CCT program, which benefited 4.4 million Filipino families.
“Echoing the Liberal Party position and contrary to the pronouncements of the President and the actions of his allies in Congress, she has also voiced her opposition to lowering the age of criminal liability of minors,” said Pangilinan.
“It is ironic that the allies of the administration rejected the President’s appointee,” he also said.
Liberal Party members in the CA, including Recto, Drilon, and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV all voted in favor of Taguiwalo’s confirmation.
Under the CA rules, Taguiwalo cannot be reappointed because she had failed to pass muster for the third time.
The CA has not yet acted on the confirmation of another leftist, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, a former Armed Forces chief who Duterte appointed three months ago after Lopez’s rejection.
In an interview, Taguiwalo said she failed to get the nod of the CA members due to her opposition to the tax reform proposal, and the congressmen’s practice of using their offices to secure assistance from the DSWD.
She surmised there were also some issues on policy differences that worked against her confirmation.
“What did I do wrong? Is it because I am with the left? I haven’t done anything wrong. What I did was stand firm on the Supreme Court decision against pork barrel,” she said in Filipino.
“That is just conjecture on my part, because what else do they want from me? I did not steal monty. In terms of delivery of programs and services, we’ve tried to be early,” she added.
Before the proceedings, Taguiwalo admitted she was hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Based on her competence, track record and integrity, she said she saw no reason not to be confirmed.
“But I was rejected and I was not surprised because at the end of the day, a decision will be made,” she said.
“The CA as a collective body has decided and I accept its decision. But I believe that the decision of the CA does not reflect the sentiments of the public. I fully believe that more than ever, I am responsible to the public.,” she said.
The Palace expressed disappointment over the rejection of Taguiwalo.
“Secretary Taguiwalo had served the Duterte administration with passion, profession and integrity. She made an impact in the lives of many Filipinos in her tenure as DSWD secretary,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
He said the President is now looking for a possible replacement.
A leftist youth group, however, blamed Duterte’s lack of support for Taguiwalo’s rejection.
“Truth to tell, Duterte holds a supermajority in Congress and Senate and could if he so wishes easily push for the confirmation of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Ka Paeng Mariano. Duterte’s nonexistent support for them only shows that he is not interested in genuine reforms,” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of the youth group Anakbayan.
“Duterte’s lack of efforts to push for Taguiwalo’s confirmation only shows that he now sees no more need for progressives to deodorize his regime and posture as pro-people. This is proof that Duterte is the chief representative of oligarchic ruling classes who are allergic to genuine reforms that threaten their economic and political interests,” Crisostomo added. With John Paolo Bencito and Rio N. Araja
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