Gina acts like an employee

The real news would have been if the Supreme Court reversed itself and granted the motion for reconsideration filed by the Ombusdman. But the upholding by the tribunal of its decision last year dismissing the plunder charges against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is really nothing to write home about.

Of course, the Ombudsman cannot be faulted for seeking a reversal of the ruling on the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office case; that is its duty. What the Ombudsman really should be blamed for is filing such a stupid case in the first place, so that a mere demurrer to evidence would cause it to collapse.

Because that’s what happened: Arroyo’s lawyers decided that they needn’t even present their own evidence and asked the high court to rule on the evidence brought before the court by the prosecution.

And Arroyo won her case. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales must be so proud of herself.

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I’ve never really understood why President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Gina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. And now that Duterte keeps railing against the “oligarchs” who own certain media companies, singling out the Lopez family’s ABS-CBN broadcasting network and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of the Prietos, I profess that Gina’s continued stay in his Cabinet baffles me even more.

Duterte’s beef against the Lopezes, as the President has explained it on various occasions, is that the network refused to run a television commercial that he had already paid for during last year’s campaign. I don’t recall ABS-CBN ever replying to Duterte’s charge that it took his money and yet refused to run his ad—a serious charge that should merit a direct reply from the country’s biggest broadcast network.

Be that as it may, Duterte’s repeated broadsides against the network should at least merit some sort of response from Gina Lopez, whose family owns the TV station. But Lopez, who has never shied away from voicing her opinions in the past, has always avoided the topic of her family’s media company and why his boss believes he never gets fair treatment from it.

This week, Duterte once again reappointed Lopez, who was bypassed by the Commission on Appointments before Congress adjourned its sessions. And no, there is no sign that Duterte will stop accusing the Lopezes’ media outfit (run by Gina’s brother Gabby) of bias and of defrauding him during the campaign period.

On one level, I think Duterte’s choice of Lopez to head up the DENR is perfectly understandable: He wanted an advocate for the environment to head up a department that had, in the past, always been in a cozy relationship with those who made a living out of exploiting it.

But if Duterte wanted to end the long-standing problem of regulatory capture in the DENR, he couldn’t have picked a worse person for the job than Lopez. And I’m not even talking about the personality quirks of Gina, which compel her, on occasion, to bawl people out for being mere employees.

The truth of the matter is, Gina’s family is also engaged in mining, the industry that the secretary-designate seems monomaniacally against. While the Lopez-owned First Balfour still has not started quarrying operations in Taysan, Batangas, pending the issuance of the required government permits, this is still a clear case of a conflict of interest that seems to have slipped the mind of Gina.

The point is, if Duterte had really wanted an environmentalist to head up the DENR in order to shake it up, he could have chosen from among any number of people who have committed their lives to the preservation of our natural resources. He needn’t have settled for someone like Gina, whose only previous work as an environment advocate was a highly questionable stint as head of the Pasig River rehabilitation program and a campaign to popularize “glamping” (or glamor camping) in Palawan.

And the only reason why Lopez made a name for herself as a so-called environmental advocate was because of her connection to ABS-CBN. All the other environmentalists who did not have such an illustrious and powerful surname had no chance at all, apparently.

The owners of the Inquirer, at least, can claim that they didn’t get anyone from their family appointed to a juicy government post with Duterte’s victory. The Lopezes of ABS-CBN (and yes, First Balfour) cannot make the same assertion.

So, should we all just wait for Gina Lopez to rule on the application of her family’s mining company and trust that she will do the right thing, even if it hurts her own clan? Or shouldn’t Lopez just quit while she’s not forced into such a situation, especially with Duterte repeatedly calling the people at ABS-CBN a bunch of crooks who took his money but didn’t even allow the airing of his commercials?

Maybe Duterte is just waiting for Lopez to leave on her own steam, because he doesn’t relish the prospect of firing her. If he did that while he goes on and on about the biased network owned by her family, it would look like he was getting back at Gina by removing her from DENR.

But if that is Duterte’s game plan, then he will have to wait for a very long time. Because despite her oligarchic contempt for mere salaried workers, Gina Lopez appears to be dead set on hanging on to her job, whatever happens.

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