Social Welfare and Development Secretary Erwin Tulfo must be reappointed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the powerful Commission on Appointments, which is adjourning session this week, will bypass his appointment for the second time for lack of material time, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Monday.
“He will be bypassed this coming month and then he’ll have to be reappointed by the President shortly after that,” Zubiri said in an interview with reporters.
If he gets bypassed the third time, then the 24-member CA will have to vote, according to Zubiri.
Since Congress is adjourning session this week, CA meetings and sessions will resume in January, effectively bypassing Tulfo, Zubiri explained.
The CA cannot tackle and hold plenary sessions while the sessions in Congress are adjourned.
Sessions in the Senate and the House of Representatives will be adjourned from December 17, 2022, to January 22, 2023.
In November, a CA panel deferred the deliberations on the ad interim appointment of Tulfo as they raised the issues on the latter’s American citizenship and his conviction on four counts of libel.
Zubiri disclosed that the CA has invited incumbent and retired justices to provide opinions on Tulfo’s citizenship and conviction.
On the citizenship issue, Zubiri said Tulfo confirmed that he was using an American passport until 2021. He was reported to have served in the US Army from 1988 to 1992.
Tulfo would need to show the CA panel additional documents such as a certification that he is no longer an American citizen, he added.
Meanwhile, Zubiri said Tulfo’s conviction is being weighed in as libel is considered a crime involving moral turpitude.
Zubiri cited the SC decision on the case of Ty-Delgado versus the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Philip Arreza Pichay.
Asked if the issue of moral turpitude can be applied to appointed government officials, Zubiri said the rule is applied whether an individual is elected or appointed.
While he personally likes Tulfo to head the DSWD, Zubiri said the CA members must follow their constitutional mandate.
“There are legal impediments and there are legal issues that we still have to resolve… It’s not over yet. We still have hearings. Hopefully, we will be able to fix all these legal impediments,” Zubiri said.
In a phone interview with reporters, Tulfo, a graduate of the University of the East, confirmed his libel conviction was final but he said his legal team had an explanation if the rule on moral turpitude could be considered in the case that was raised against him before the CA.
Tulfo said he was ready to present documents from US Immigration stating the status of his citizenship.
But he is confident he can answer the two issues that were tackled by the CA panel.
Tulfo was reappointed while Congress was not in session, or what is called an ad interim appointment.
This would allow Cabinet members to function without CA approval, but the appointment must eventually pass through the bicameral body when Congress is in session.
The CA said: “An ad interim appointment ceases to be valid upon disapproval by the Commission on Appointments or, if not confirmed, until the next adjournment of Congress.”
The CA previously deferred Tulfo’s appointment over his four libel convictions as a columnist, and questions about his citizenship since Tulfo served in the United States military in 1988.