In late November 2010, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago described the Cabinet of President BS Aquino as “lightweight.”
“They are so lightweight that they are liable to float off their own delusions of grandeur,” she said.
She threatened to “massacre” at the Commission on Appointments (CA) some “smug, self-satisfied, non-elected appointees.” She also called them “sycophantic” people who should be declared “enemies of the state.”
“I’m going to teach them a lesson in humility,” she vowed.
She didn’t identify those Cabinet members but it’s evident that one of them is DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman. Well, Soliman may fit Senator Miriam’s description of the Aquino Cabinet members but definitely she wouldn’t get any lesson in humility from the feisty veteran lawmaker. (Obviously, she doesn’t feel humiliated by her appointment’s being bypassed 15 times since 2010.) Soliman will miss this “lesson” from “Professor” Miriam after the CA moved her confirmation from June 5 to June 11, the last session day of the First Regular Session.
Had the June 5 plenary of the CA included Soliman’s confirmation, Senator Miriam would have invoked Section 20 which would defer Soliman’s confirmation without any debates. (It can be invoked by a CA member even if he or she merely doesn’t like the color of Soliman’s hair.) However, it couldn’t be invoked on the last session day of a regular session so Soliman is assured of confirmation today, June 11.
Senator Miriam called the deferment “dirty politics.” I’m sure she knows this isn’t the first time that the CA has resorted to this expediency to ensure the confirmation of a Malacanang-favored appointee. The last time the CA used this stratagem was on June 11, 2008 when it confirmed the appointment of 4 Cabinet members, 100 diplomats, 17 generals including the chief of staff, and 7 colonels.
This mass confirmation became inevitable after Sen. Jamby Madrigal made a mass invocation of Section 20 on March 12. She also threatened to do the same on all appointees recommended for confirmation in retaliation for the confirmation of B/Gen. Nestor Sadiarin which she had opposed. With this threat, all CA plenary sessions were deferred to June 11, the last session day of the Second Regular Session of the 14th Congress.
Section 20, the only weapon in the arsenal of CA members, can only result in the bypassing of an appointment. This weapon could be a dud because the President can always reappoint those bypassed. Now, an appointee enjoys all the powers and privileges of his office even if he’s not yet confirmed by the CA, so what’s the CA for?
The CA is supposed to enhance checks and balances in our republican system of government. In reality, it is toothless. It is supposed to inquire into the credentials and moral fitness of an appointee but exercising this function is meaningless in the face of the President’s power to reappoint a bypassed appointee any number of times. Valid issues may be raised against their confirmation by the CA but Malacañang can ignore these, thus making the CA a useless, toothless constitutional body.
Having illicit affairs makes one morally unfit. Ideally, these should result in the disqualification of an appointee. However, raising this issue like what Sandra Cam has threatened to do against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will only fall on deaf ears at the CA.
Cam, president of the Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines, said she would make public a video that she claims records intimate moments between Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and her driver Ronnie Palisok Dayan. She also claimed that a few years ago, de Lima had an illicit affair with Cesar Mancao, a former police officer. Good luck to Cam, but it will be an exercise in futility. “Sexcapades” is a non- issue at the CA even without Malacañang intervening.
There was this wife who told the CA her husband in the military was morally unfit to be promoted because he had abandoned her in favor of her former best friend. Her protestations were ignored. As one CA member explained: “If we are going to remove all soldiers who are womanizers, there might be no one left in the AFP!”
Come to think of it, if the same moral standards were used on politicians, there might be no pols left in the country! And if it shouldn’t, couldn’t be applied to male politicians and appointees, then it shouldn’t, couldn’t be applied also to female politicians and appointees, including Sec. de Lima.
An appointee’s having several pending cases of estafa and bouncing checks wouldn’t matter to the CA either. Many oppositors who brought these up in confirmation hearings were told to go to the court instead.
Again, the question: What’s the CA for?