Unfazed, Roxas to wait and seeBy Michael Lim Ubac, Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Malacañang remains hopeful one of President Benigno Aquino’s closest advisers and political allies will make it through the bicameral Commission on Appointments, despite the threat by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to block the confirmation of Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as the new interior secretary Wednesday.
Mr. Aquino has named Roxas, the erstwhile secretary of transportation and communications, to head the Department of Interior and Local Government, after Secretary Jesse Robredo was killed unexpectedly in a plane crash on August 18.
Santiago, a commission member, however, has threatened to block Roxas’s confirmation as well as those of other Cabinet members who snubbed her committee hearing last Friday into the activities of since resigned Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno.
“We spoke to Secretary Roxas about it this morning (Tuesday), and what the secretary did say was that it was the prerogative of Senator Santiago to push through with [her] intention,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in a Palace briefing.
Valte, however, said she hoped Santiago would change her mind.
“On the side of the executive [branch], we know that the senator recognizes the national interest” that the Department of Interior and Local Government (seeks to protect), she said.
“That particular department is a very sensitive department,” she added. “And we hope the position will be filled at the soonest possible time.”
On whether the President would resort to making an ad interim appointment should Roxas not be confirmed—as suggested by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—Valte said: “That depends on the intention and (what) will actually happen—if bypass or rejection. We’ll have to wait and see.”
It only takes a veto by any CA member to block the confirmation of a presidential appointee.
Roxas, along with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, did not show up at the Senate inquiry called by Santiago.
Puno and Philippine National Police director General Nicanor Bartolome came. Santiago, however, could not get anything out of Puno and her committee hearing appeared to be for naught.
Santiago then vowed to block the confirmation of Roxas, De Lima and Paje for being absent from the hearing.
Her committee on constitutional amendments and the revision of codes and laws was investigating Puno for his alleged links to irregular gun deals, “jueteng” and supposed attempts to secure the papers of the late Robredo.
Although Ochoa’s appointment as executive secretary had long been confirmed by the CA, the appointments of De Lima and Paje had been languishing in the bicameral body since 2010.
To save the day, Enrile, chairman of the Commission on Appointments, had suggested that President Aquino give Roxas an ad interim appointment after Congress goes on recess later this week so that Roxas could perform his new duties even without the CA’s nod.
“An ad interim appointment by the President when we go on recess on September 20 will have all the earmarks of a permanent appointment until revoked by the Commission on Appointments,” Enrile said.
Under the Constitution, Roxas was barred from taking over the DILG after the death of Robredo since Congress was in session when President Aquino appointed him the new interior secretary. The appointment therefore requires commission approval.
Ahead of his confirmation hearing, however, Roxas appeared calm.
He said it was Santiago’s “right” to block his appointment as interior secretary.
“It’s her right,” he told reporters, referring to Rule 20 of the CA’s rules. “That right is with every member of the CA. I was ordered to do this job (at the DILG). I will follow whatever the decision of the CA will be.”
Roxas said he had earlier written a letter to Santiago explaining why he did not attend the Puno inquiry.
He would not have been able to “contribute” anything to the inquiry because he had yet to assume the top DILG post, he said. And while he knew Puno, he said he never got to work with him. With a report from Christian V. Esguerra