The fakest statement of the moment was that of Commission on Appointments (CA) member Ronaldo Zamora who said after the bicameral body rejected the confirmation of Gina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). In all its twisted and tortured sanctimony, this was Zamora’s reaction:
“Passion for the job and certain convictions are not enough. Minimum qualifications are important and many of us were uncertain she had that.” What! What were the “ minimum qualifications” this House fixture (Mr. Zamora has been there since the 8th Congress) used as points of reference? Maybe these:
* The DENR secretary should be pro-mining.
* The DENR secretary should look the other way when miners despoil the environment and inaction is the desired policy.
* The DENR nominee should realize the lobbying power of the dollar billionaires that own the mining firms – and be fearful of that awesome lobbying power.
*That the CA members, given a choice between a crusading DENR secretary and a mining lackey, will give the green light to the lackey, not the principled one.
*That a nominee’s prime qualification is not protecting the environment but being pliable in a toxic confirmation environment. The CA process involves a nominee genuflecting before mostly wasted men who scammed the electoral process to get into power.
Mr. Zamora just used the code words for “Play” which Lopez heroically refused to do.
Lopez was perhaps the most eminently qualified person named to that post in a generation. She started as a campaigner for the environment, got serious grounding on the environmental issues that mattered most. It was a rough start for her. She belongs to a wealthy family and many considered her just one of those rich dilettantes who, out of boredom, affixed themselves to the cause of environmental protection. Just talk and no bite. She would prove her detractors wrong.
When one of her close partners in the Palawan environmental work was murdered – the late Doctor Gerry Ortega – people started taking her seriously. Environmental groups breathed a welcome relief when DU30 appointed her DENR secretary.
The bold, decisive steps Lopez took against the mining firms – these were not the Diwalwal miners but the really big mining concerns – were the most decisive, game-changing, life-changing decisions ever made by a member of the DU30 cabinet ever. That she was unafraid, that she was tenacious for the right things became too obvious.
That the boldest and most radical decisions for communities and the posterity came from the only blue blood member of the Cabinet was another pleasant surprise. The mining firms, with their powerful political lobby and media muscle struck back. The usual sob stories about lost jobs and lost income became the media meme. A parade of metallurgy students blamed Lopez for their supposed uncertain future – not knowing that the good stewardship of the mining ecosystem would be better for them in the long haul.
Of course, Lopez, confident that DU30 would back her to the hilt, thought that there was some conscience left in the CA and she would sail through.
There was no conscience in that body, of course, and Mr. Zamora’s statement aptly reflected what the CA stands for and what the CA is all about. Nominees are expected to play.
That Rep. Zamora passed judgment on the qualifications of Lopez as a member of the CA is one of the things that can only take place in the Philippines and its rotten political system. Nickel Asia Corp., Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., Taganito Mining Corp., Cagdiano Mining Corp. and Hinatuan Mining Corp. are all under the control of Manuel Zamora, the brother of the politician Zamora.
In countries with very tangential recognition of ethics and fairness, Mr. Zamora, the politician, would have been forced out of CA deliberations with Lopez as the topic. Yet, Mr. Zamora, instead of recusing himself from the confirmation proceedings, even framed the quote of the day after the CA’s rejection of Lopez’s nomination.
Only in a political system like ours that do not even seem to know what is ethical from what is outright garapal, can the brother of a mining tycoon pass judgment on the qualifications of an staunch anti-mining advocate.
Why did DU30 fail to follow up on his word to support Lopez all the way? Ask him. People are clueless on why DU30 let her down. He said things were not under his control. Maybe the mining lobby and its lobby money were hard to resist.
The truth is we all failed Lopez. A solid national consensus delivered loud and clear to the political leadership, saying that there has never been a DENR secretary as pro-environment as Lopez – and one so eminently qualified – was one thing we all failed to do.
Maybe we all underestimated the viciousness of the CA.