After Tulfo, COA chief also fails to get CA nod
MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Gamaliel Cordoba on Wednesday failed to get the endorsement of the legislative Commission on Appointments (CA), which suspended his confirmation hearing after Sen. Risa Hontiveros raised his role in the shutdown of ABS-CBN network.
Cordoba’s confirmation was suspended a day after Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo also failed to get the nod of the bicameral panel. Visibly looking uneasy, Cordoba fielded questions from Hontiveros as he defended his decision as then chair of the National Telecommunications Commission to order the Lopez-owned media company to stop its operations on May 5, 2020, a day after its legislative franchise expired.
As has been done in the past, any CA member can indefinitely defer the confirmation of any appointee subject to confirmation under Section 20 of the CA rules.
Hontiveros said the closure of ABS-CBN resulted in the mass layoff of about 11,000 employees and was seen as an attack on press freedom. The senator is an older sister of noted broadcaster Pia Hontiveros, who worked at ABS-CBN from 1989 to 2011.
The senator also chided the COA chair for reneging on the commitment he made during a hearing of the House of Representatives that he would issue a probationary permit allowing ABS-CBN to continue operating while Congress was still deliberating its application for a new congressional franchise.
“How can the public trust your integrity as COA chair if you broke the promise and commitment you made under oath?” Hontiveros asked Cordoba.
“Public officers must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency,” she said. But Cordoba defended his decision, arguing that it was consistent with a previous ruling issued by the Supreme Court regarding the issue of an expired legislative franchise.
“Of course, while it was legal, I understand that it was really unfortunate. That’s why I apologized to those who were affected,” Cordoba said.
“Again, I want to apologize. Forgive me. I just had to follow the rule of law,” he said.
Unlike Cordoba, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno breezed through their respective confirmation hearings.
‘Keep on going’
Tulfo was also bypassed on Tuesday, but he said in a news forum on Wednesday that President Marcos asked him to “keep on going” and continue with his work.
“The instruction to me was to keep on going, as told by the President. My [ad interim] appointment is only until March 4 of next year, so, even if I was bypassed, I have until March 4 before the CA could confirm my appointment,” Tulfo said at the the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
He said he asked the President “for guidance and then he just told me to ‘just do your job.’”
“He (President Marcos) did not tell me to ‘do this’ or ‘do that.’ All he told me was to get ready and let [the lawmakers] do their jobs,” Tulfo said, adding the President also does not want to interfere with the CA.
Among issues raised against Tulfo during his confirmation hearing was his American citizenship being a member of the US military from 1988 to 1992, based on a report submitted to the CA.
Tulfo admitted that he became an American citizen in 1988 and that he only regained his Filipino citizenship this year in compliance with requirements for his appointment to the Cabinet.
However, he had clarified that he got his American citizenship not because of joining the US military, but for other reasons he could not divulge publicly.
Also raised against him was a conviction for libel as raised by Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, an ally of the Marcos administration.
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