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Madrigal puts damper on promotion of 25 military officers

By Veronica Uy
First Posted 15:56:00 03/12/2008

Filed Under: Politics, Congress

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2) The animosity between the minority and the majority came to a head once again when Senator Ana Consuelo Madrigal on Wednesday invoked Section 20 of the Commission on Appointments' rules, effectively postponing the promotions of 25 military officers.

Madrigal also rained on the parade of Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Elections Commissioner Moslemen Macarambon, whose appointments were tabled at the CA but were deferred after the brouhaha over the rule's application.

After much debate, which lasted about two hours, the CA plenary was suspended until April when Congress resumes session after its break for the Holy Week. The CA plenary suspension also deferred the consideration of all those up for promotion or appointment.

Senate President Manuel Villar brushed off the incident as ?spice? in the life of the commission.

Section 20, when invoked by any member of the CA, effectively postpones the confirmation of government officials.

Madrigal went ahead with her invocation despite appeals by Senator Manuel Roxas II and Congressman Rodolfo Plaza, throwing the plenary into a frenzy of manifestations and motions.

Senator Richard Gordon took the floor to protest the "cavalier' way by which the rule was invoked collectively on all the military officers regardless of the competence or qualification of each officer.

Madrigal recalled the incident last week when she accused the commission of depriving her of the right to invoke the rule and again described the incident as "treachery."

Last week, she wanted to invoke the rule against Brigadier General Nestor Sadiarin but was not able to do so because she did not hear Sadiarin's name when it was called out toward the beginning of the motion to confirm the officers' promotion. She accused the commission of giving her a different list as hers had Sadiarin's name toward the end.

Gordon said that Section 20 could not be invoked out of "whim, caprice, or arbitrariness" but only out of "absolute good faith." He even took pot shots at Madrigal saying that the military officers earned their promotions through ?blood and guts...not inherited."

But Madrigal then invoked the death of her own grandfather, Jose Abad Santos.

Gordon and Madrigal then alternately argued their positions on the floor.

Gordon cautioned against the use of the rule and advised that it be used sparingly.

While the session was suspended, Madrigal told reporters she was invoking Section 20 as a matter of principle because she did not want the commission to be used for ?their bata-bata [wards]...and rubber stamp.?

Senator Rodolfo Biazon then took the floor, repeating Gordon's argument that Section 20 had been used to overturn the will of the majority and asked for a review of the rule.

The session was suspended for a few minutes while the senators and congressmen who are members of the commission debated the effect and effectivity of Madrigal's invocation.

Senator Joker Arroyo, before the suspension of the session, said the military officers were neither bypassed nor rejected. He said the consideration of their appointments was merely suspended.

Before the suspension of the session, three motions were pending: to refer the matter to the committee on rules, to divide the House, and to adjourn.

While the session was suspended, the military officers whose promotions were put on hold joked with each other. One would say, ?I've always been Section 1,? another, ?Now I'm Section 20, but Row 1.?

Another military officer said he felt that going through the commission was more difficult than going to the battlefield because ?at least there, you know who your enemy is.?

Brigadier General Arthur Abadilla, whose nomination was opposed by Madrigal at the committee level which sparked the debate, described the process as stressful. He said he had served the country for 33 years and deserved the promotion.

Aside from Abadilla, the 24 other military officers whose promotions were deferred were: Lieutenant General Pedro Ike Inserto; Major Generals Nehemias Pajarito, Daniel Casabar Jr., and Nicomedes Corpuz Jr.; Brigadier Generals Jonathan Martir, Honorato Santos, Celedonio Boquiren Jr., Mohammad Nur Askalani, Gregorio Paduganan, Teddy Hermano, Mario Butch Lacson;

Commodores Ramon Espera Jr., Joel Babas, Alexander Pama, Robert Noblefranca, and Adriano Munar Jr.;

Colonels Gerry Amante, Amado Bustillos, Washington Catameo, Harold Cabreros, Jose Tolibas, and (reserve inactive) Oliver Aragon; and Captain Eleazar Castro.

The session started at past 3 p.m. and ended at around 5 p.m.

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