ENVIRONMENT Secretary Regina Lopez will defend herself for the last time today before the Commission on Appointments, which must decide by Wednesday whether her appointment is confirmed or rejected.
President Rodrigo Duterte had reappointed Lopez on an ad interim basis after the CA bypassed her twice. But new CA rules bar the reappointment of Cabinet secretaries who fail to gain confirmation three times.
Previously, 23 groups, including displaced mine workers, scientists and lawmakers, had lobbied hard to get the CA to reject Lopez’s confirmation, saying she was unqualified for the post.
The President’s own party, the PDP-Laban, on Monday said it would support the appointment of a law professor at De La Salle University, Mark Kristopher Tolentino, as Environment secretary if the CA rejects Lopez this week.
Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, whose district was host to seven mine sites, wanted Lopez summoned to the House to explain the manipulation done to the mining audit that paved the way for the closure of 23 mine sites and the suspension of 75 mineral production sharing agreements.
In an affidavit submitted to the Ombudsman, Barbers said the mine audit team leader admitted having tampered with the audit results on the orders of Leo Jasareno, Lopez’s trusted adviser who had been sacked as chief of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
“We await the attendance of Secretary-designate Gina Lopez and the rest of her cabal in the Committee on Good Government so I can show to her the shenanigans being committed by her most trusted adviser as well as the other equally corrupt MGB regional directors who play God in their areas of jurisdiction,” Barbers added.
“If this revelation does not move the Secretary, then I can only guess why,” Barbers said.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines also said Lopez’s ad interim reappointment was “unfortunate” and said she is still unqualified for the job.
President Duterte on Monday night issued the ad interim appointments of Lopez and three other Cabinet members who have not been confirmed by the CA.
“It is very unfortunate. We maintain our opposition and we hope that the CA will really look into the qualifications. Lopez is really not qualified,” Chamber of Mines of the Philippines legal and policy vice president Ronald Recidoro said. With John Paolo Bencito