MANILA, Philippines - Congress has adjourned for a three-week break with none of the Cabinet members appointed by President Aquino being tackled by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that the consideration of Aquino Cabinet members by the CA was deferred because of the appointees’ failure to submit the documents required by the commission.
“They have not completed their papers. They are supposed to submit it, complete it within a certain time, but you check with the secretariat. When they submit, we have to publish it then there must be a public hearing,” Enrile said.
Mr. Aquino had completed his first 100 days and the CA has started its work by confirming the promotions of over 200 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and 60 career foreign service officers.
However, the most important appointees of the President, his Cabinet members, have yet to be subjected to the confirmation process.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said that the Cabinet appointees failed to complete their documentary requirements for the CA to start hearing their appointments.
“They are used to being slow. They’re all so slow,” Sotto said in Filipino, referring to the administration.
“They have not said anything about (what to do with) dangerous drugs. I don’t know what their plan is. It’s the same thing with the submission of these (documentary requirements),” he added.
CA Secretary Arthur Tiu said that some of the Cabinet members have already completed their requirements but there was just no time left to tackle their appointments.
During yesterday’s hearing, the CA confirmed the appointments of 59 career foreign service officers and ambassadors.
Consideration of the appointments of three ambassadors – Maria Consuelo Puyat-Reyes (Chile), Mercedes Arrastia-Tuason (Vatican) and Noe Wong (Cambodia) – was deferred for technical reasons.
However, since they were all incumbent ambassadors, the CA agreed to waive their personal appearance in the next hearing sometime next month.
It was also discovered during the hearing that two of the ambassadors submitted by the DFA for confirmation have already retired.
Isaias Begonia (Romania) and Macarthur Corsino (Cuba) were promoted to chief of mission class 1 last March but at the time Congress was not in session.
Sen. Edgardo Angara said that it was a big problem because they were already retired and yet their promotions were presented to the CA for confirmation.
He said that this would set a bad precedent and directed the DFA to submit its legal opinion on the matter.
DFA legal officer and spokesman Ed Malaya said that there was some concern that the Commission on Audit might question the salaries and emoluments received by Begonia and Corsino because the CA has not confirmed their ad interim appointments.
DFA undersecretary Rafael Seguis expressed concern that without the confirmation of the CA, they might be asked to refund all the salaries and emoluments above the pay grade of their previous rank.
Angara said that the two could still be saved from any embarrassment if the DFA could establish in its legal opinion that their appointments were “completed” and so they do not have to go through the CA.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she still enjoys the President’s trust and she would not resign despite differences in opinion with the President, who decided against the recommendations of the fact-finding committee that she led in investigating the hostage fiasco where eight Hong Kong tourists and the hostage taker were killed last Aug. 23 at the Rizal Park in Manila.
“The President still has confidence in me, so I will not resign,” she told reporters.
De Lima said she felt the affirmation of the trust and confidence of her boss during a meeting in the Palace.
De Lima said she is now ready to facilitate the second phase of the incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) on the hostage crisis.
De Lima made her announcement following calls made by some quarters, including Senator Enrile, for her to just quit if she is no longer happy with decisions of President Aquino.
Enrile advised the justice secretary to just shut up
and refrain from expressing her disappointment over the President’s decisions.
Marvin Sy, Philippine Star