Roxas, Abaya expected to breeze through CA
MANILA, Philippines — Heeding the call of President Benigno Aquino III, the Senate leadership sees the confirmation of newly appointed Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Transportation Secretary Emilio Joseph Abaya as a walk in the park for the two close allies of the President.
The bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) appears in the mood to open the courtesy or express lane for Roxas and Abaya following the demise of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who died on Aug. 18 in a plane crash without seeing his appointment getting confirmed by the CA.
Malacañang reiterated the President’s call for an expedited confirmation process for the two appointees so as not to derail the reforms being instituted in these departments.
“I was reading the papers today, and from all accounts, the leaders of the Commission on Appointments are saying that they don’t see any problem because, first, the two secretaries who will undergo the confirmation process are familiar faces; and, second, they don’t see any objection to the appointment,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in an interview with Radyo ng Bayan.
Senator Franklin Drilon, a stalwart of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), shared Valte’s optimism.
“I see no problem. If papers are submitted next week, I expect CA confirmation by Sept. 18, last session day before the two-week break,” said Drilon, when interviewed by phone on Sunday.
Congress will have a two-week break, allowing politicians — incumbent or not — to file, from October 1 to 5, their certificates of candidacy with the poll body.
Drilon said yes when asked if the Robredo debacle could somehow convince members of the CA in both chambers to expedite the process, based on the timetable mentioned by the senator.
In the unlikely possibility that Roxas and Abaya would not be confirmed before the brief congressional adjournment, Drilon said Aquino could just issue an ad interim appointment to both, and thus legalize, for the time being, their new Cabinet designations.
“If not, ad interim appointment can be issued upon adjournment on Sept. 22 to enable them to assume (the position) pending confirmation,” said Drilon, a former Senate president.
In a text message, Senator Gregorio Honasan said there was “high probability” that both Roxas and Abaya would be confirmed soon by the CA “considering the request of the President for CA to expedite the confirmation … and the positive responses of Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and other CA members.”
Honasan, however, issued a caveat.
“Still, Secretary Jesse is a tough act to follow. Secretary Abaya is equipped with credentials, competence, youth, and energy to continue where Secretary Mar left off,” said Honasan.
On Friday, Aquino gave Roxas the portfolio of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), quickly ending speculations that it would be handed over to Senator Panfilo Lacson because of his previous experience as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Roxas’ post, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), was transferred by the President to Abaya, the LP secretary general and chair of the coveted House Appropriations Committee.
As DILG chief, Roxas has supervision over the PNP, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire, and local government units.
Honasan has high expectations for the two new appointees although former President Joseph Estrada had belittled the advantage that Roxas might have as head of the DILG come 2016.
Estrada had described Roxas as “good,” recalling the secretary’s stint as trade secretary during his administration.
But Estrada had reservations on how Roxas would address what he called the “worsening” peace and order situation.
Asked about Estrada’s doubts, Honasan, in effect, took cudgels for Roxas and Abaya.
“These are observations and comments that have to be factored in. But Secretaries Mar and Jun are equipped to equal or even exceed performance and standards set by their predecessors, and public expectations of the public,” said the senator, adding:
“What is equally important is non-partisanship, especially on the eve of the 2013 elections, in managing two departments with wide development reach—police, local government units, transport, communications—among the core components of a productive, united, truly free and independent, proud and sovereign Filipino nation.”
Valte reiterated that Roxas would continue the programs started by Robredo such as “improvement of facilities” at state-run prison houses and purchasing fire-fighting “equipment.”
She begged off from divulging “the specific marching orders” that, she said, “are confidential matters that cannot be discussed in public yet.”
But in separate phone interview, a fellow Cabinet member said that among the President’s marching orders for Roxas was to curb rising criminality in the country.
Although Tesda Secretary General Joel Villanueva said he was not privy to the conversation between the President and Roxas prior to the announcement of his new job heading the DILG, “I can only assume that (focusing on anti-crime is paramount). In my view, Mar is perfect (for the job). He will not tolerate abuses.”
President Aquino on Friday rejected criticism that Roxas was given the DILG in preparation for the 2016 presidential election, saying: “Secretary Roxas will be able to demonstrate that he’d advance the country’s interest, rather than the party’s interest.”
In a chat with reporters in the Palace Friday, Roxas highlighted his priorities, which would include an intensified drive against the proliferation of illegal-numbers’ game and illegal drugs.
“On jueteng, on drugs, on kidnapping, illegal logging, the President’s orders . . . are clear. And I’ll do my job [and] arrest the people behind these crimes,” he told reporters.
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