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CA bypasses Lopez, 3 other secretaries

From top left, clockwise: Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo

From top left, clockwise: Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo

The congressional Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday bypassed the nomination of controversial Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and those of three other members of President Duterte’s Cabinet.

But Education Secretary Leonor Briones won the CA’s nod as Congress packed up for a six-week break.

Bypassed besides Lopez were Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial and left-leaning Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano.

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The bypassing of the four nominees means Mr. Duterte can either reappoint them or name others to their posts.

Reappointment expected

Malacañang said on Wednesday that Mr. Duterte was expected to reappoint the four nominees.

“The President’s trust and confidence in the Cabinet secretaries bypassed remain undiminished. We expect that they will be reappointed to continue serving [at] their posts,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Briones’ confirmation was good news for Malacañang after the CA last week rejected the nomination of Perfecto Yasay Jr. as foreign secretary after ruling that he lied to the panel about his American citizenship.

Of the bypassed nominations, Lopez’s is the most problematic because of heavy opposition from the mining industry and its dependents.

An ardent environmentalist, Lopez last month ordered 23 mines located in watersheds shut and five others suspended.

She also canceled 75 contracts for mining projects located in watersheds.

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The affected mining companies are appealing Lopez’s orders to the Office of the President.

Ubial’s nomination has also met with opposition from various groups because of her cancellation of a plan for the health department to distribute condoms to students.

Peace talks

There had been calls for left-leaning Taguiwalo and Mariano to resign after peace talks between the government and communist rebels collapsed last month.

But the resumption of peace negotiations announced by both sides earlier this week could improve the chances of Taguiwalo and Mariano to win the CA’s nod when Congress returns in May.

Left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan deplored the bypassing of Taguiwalo and Mariano, calling it a sign of the “rottenness of the system of bureaucrat capitalism.”

“Congressional posts are being used to uphold and defend ruling class interests against forces pushing for reforms in social services, land reform and the environment. It would be a monumental irony if a government that claims to be led by a ‘leftist’ would end up booting out the leftists from the administration,” Bayan said in a statement on Wednesday.

Knees weak but not brain

Briones’ confirmation on Wednesday came after over three hours of grilling by members of the CA education committee chaired by Sen. Bam Aquino, who questioned her about Department of Education (DepEd) programs such as building more schools.

Briones spoke about what she said were issues raised against her, specifically about her physical fitness.

It is true that she uses a wheelchair when she travels overseas, she said.

“But there is no correlation between the state of my knees and the state of my brain,” said Briones, who served as treasurer in the administration of President Joseph Estrada.

Asked by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III about the health department’s plan to distribute condoms to students, Briones said a legal study determined that the DepEd was not obligated to participate in the program.

In the end though, the CA committee confirmed Briones’ nomination after Sen. Panfilo Lacson moved for it, seconded by Senators Ralph Recto and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Also confirmed on Wednesday were 44 military officers, including Brig. Gen Noel Buan, who was kidnapped by communist rebels in 1999, and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, now a colonel in the Army reserve. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND DJ YAP

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TAGS: Commission on Appointments, Duterte cabinet, Gina Lopez, Judy Taguiwalo, Leonor Briones, Paulyn Ubial, Rafael Mariano
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