Roxas gets CA nod quickly, thanks to Santiago’s high IQBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It’s her high IQ, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said that allowed her to remove the stumbling block to the confirmation of Manuel Roxas II as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“Mr. President, my high intelligence quotient dictates that I should reconsider and therefore withdraw my motion,” Santiago said Wednesday to the applause of her colleagues from both Houses of Congress and of those in the gallery.
Less than a minute after using her power to deny in the Commission on Appointments the confirmation of Roxas, Santiago, with a buss on Roxas’ cheek, took back her veto, allowing the commission to approve the new home affairs secretary.
Santiago, who earlier bashed Malacañang for supposedly keeping Cabinet secretaries from attending her inquiry last week into issues surrounding former Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, told reporters afterward that she was thinking of reconsidering her objection all along.
Close to Korina
“We’re quite close to each other. Even his wife [broadcaster Korina Sanchez] is very close to me,” Santiago told reporters after the commission confirmed the appointments of both Roxas and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.
“So, he (Roxas) does not deserve that kind of treatment in which, as I said, he has become collateral damage. He’s innocent but he gets whacked in the head because I’m conducting some other battle,” Santiago said.
After Roxas’ confirmation, Santiago joined those who seconded the approval of the appointment of Abaya as Roxas’ replacement as secretary of transportation and communication.
The commission also confirmed the promotion of 106 military officers to colonel or lieutenant general.
During the proceedings, commission members adverted to the lineage of Roxas and Abaya, who are both descendants of former Philippine Presidents—Manuel Roxas for the new interior secretary and Emilio Aguinaldo for the new transportation chief.
Malacañang thanked Santiago for withdrawing her objection to the appointment of Roxas.
“We are very happy that Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has placed national interest above her concerns on the snubbing of Secretary Mar Roxas. And, for that, we thank Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago for her magnanimous gesture,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a Palace briefing.
Lacierda said Roxas was wise enough to recognize Santiago’s right to block his nomination. “He (Roxas) was leaving it up to the Commission on Appointments to decide,” he said.
Santiago said she studied the commission’s rules that provided that a nominee who gets vetoed may not be the subject of a motion for reconsideration by commission members if the objection happened at the committee level.
An appeal could be made, however, in his or her behalf if made in the plenary.
“A motion for reconsideration was allowed, so I was already ready,” Santiago said, referring to the proceedings in the plenary.
“On a motion for reconsideration I’ll just ask what the damage would have been to public service. Secretary Roxas said immediately there’d be none because he can be appointed [by the President] on Saturday,” she added.
Santiago said not much would have come out of her veto of Roxas’ appointment because Congress was already about to go on recess.
“It would’ve amounted to nothing because as early as Saturday, under the rules of the Constitution, the President can then issue him an ad interim appointment and then he could take office immediately,” the senator said.
Driving home message
Santiago said she only wanted to drive home the message that Malacañang should not get in the way of a Senate inquiry.
“[As] a senator, I consider myself deeply insulted by the reaction of Malacañang in deciding collectively among the Cabinet that they would snub my committee hearing on a former DILG undersecretary,” Santiago said in raising her objection against Roxas’ appointment.
“I now want to stand by the principle that the executive branch of the government cannot effectively prevent the legislative branch of the government from holding any inquiry in aid of
legislation, a constitutionally protected power, simply by agreeing among themselves that they will not show up,” she added.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the Commission on Appointments’ committee on interior and local government, and who sponsored Roxas’ appointment in the plenary, then rose to ask that the proceedings be suspended.
Upon the suspension of session, Sotto approached an already smiling Santiago and the two of them talked with Roxas, who was just a few feet away.
Roxas gave Santigao a buss on the cheek and a few seconds later, the session resumed.
Appeal to ‘graciousness’
“I would like to appeal to the graciousness of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. May I move or ask that the invocation of Section 20 be withdrawn,” Sotto said. [A member of the commission can invoke Section 20 and block the appointment of a nominee.]
“It’s up to the member to make a decision on that part,” said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, ex-officio chairman of the commission.
Asked by reporters later if she would still invoke Section 20 against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, two other secretaries that she invited to her hearing but who also didn’t show up, Santiago said with a laugh, “Let me think.” With a report from Michael Ubac