THE Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected on Wednesday the nomination of Judy Taguiwalo as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the third appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte thumbed down by the powerful congressional body.
Members of the commission’s labor and social welfare committee junked the appointment of Taguiwalo, a former UP professor and activist, through secret voting, the results of which were presented by the committee chairman, Davao Oriental Rep. Joel Mayo Almario to the plenary.
“The committee has conducted a votation and has reached the requirement of a majority vote against the confirmation. I stand before this august chamber as chairman of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Social Welfare to move for the CA to reject the ad interim appointment of Judy Marigomen Taguiwalo as secretary of DSWD,” Almario said.
Taguiwalo, who was recommended to the Cabinet by the National Democratic Front along with Rafael Mariano and Liza Maza, ended up on the same boat as former foreign affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and environment secretary Regina Lopez, who were earlier rejected by the commission. Taguiwalo was bypassed twice.
The contingent of the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party, namely Senators Ralph Recto, Franklin Drilon, Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th and Francis Pangilinan disclosed that they voted to confirm Taguiwalo.
Taguiwalo on Wednesday said her opposition to some government policies, including the proposed comprehensive tax reform program, doomed her confirmation as a member of the Duterte Cabinet.
“I think the issue of policy differences is one of the reasons why I was not confirmed,” she told reporters.
Taguiwalo said she had made it clear to some members of the House of Representatives that the DSWD fund was not reserved for certain sectors.
She also issued DSWD Memorandum Circular No. 9, which states that the public need not secure a referral from lawmakers to obtain DSWD services.
“Tumindig ako laban sa pagpapatuloy ng pork barrel. Pinarating ko sa aking mga regional directors na ang pondo ng DSWD ay common fund at hindi entitlement ni congressman o ni congresswoman [I stood up against the continuation of pork barrel. I advised my regional directors that the DSWD fund is a common fund and not an entitlement of any congressman or congresswoman],” Taguiwalo said.
As DSWD chief, she asked for audit and status reports on how funds were used for the victims of typhoons Yolanda, Pablo, Sendong, the earthquake in Bohol, as well as the construction of emergency shelters.
Taguiwalo lamented that in her effort to give fair treatment to everyone, some sectors put malice on her move to help the Lumad, or the indigenous tribes of Mindanao. “Sila raw ay NPA [They have been accused as members of the New People’s Army].”
“I explained that those we offered help to are not armed individuals. They need our help being evacuees. It is our mandate to help them,” she added.
“My life has always been devoted to serving the people. Today’s decision of the CA to reject my appointment will in no way deter nor distract me from what I know best, serving the people,” she added.
Palace begins search for replacement
Malacañang said it was saddened by the commission’s rejection of Taguiwalo as social welfare secretary.
“Secretary Taguiwalo had served the Duterte administration with passion, profession and integrity. She made an impact in the lives of many Filipinos in her tenure as DSWD Secretary,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Wednesday.
Palace Communications Chief Martin Andanar echoed Abella’s sentiment.
“Secretary Judy was very hardworking. It is really sad that she was rejected,” Andanar added.
Abella and Andanar however said the rejection of Taguiwalo won’t hamper the delivery of social services to the people.
“The President is now looking for and studying a possible replacement,” Abella said. “The DSWD is a strong organization from [the]ground up,” he added.
Militants hit rejection
House members from the militant Makabayan bloc on Wednesday deplored the Taguiwalo’s rejection.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said in a statement that with the rejection, the administration “will be losing a very competent and dedicated DSWD secretary” and “the majority of the people catered to by the DSWD would be the ones to suffer.”
In a separate statement, Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said Taguiwalo would be a great loss to both the DSWD and poor Filipinos.
“The rejection of Ma’am Judy is a blatant proof that pro-reform officials will not be tolerated by institutions of traditional politics, hence, is causal of poverty and misery to the people,” Casilao said.
The Gabriela Women’s Party said it “strongly deplores” the rejection of Taguiwalo.
“The Duterte government and the people have lost a stellar and exemplary public servant in letting her go. Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, a staunch defender of women and people’s rights, has indeed served the people well,” it added.
Gabriela challenged members of the commission to reveal the reasons for the rejection.
“And while those who supported Taguiwalo’s appointment stood to manifest in her favor, many members of the CA chose to hide behind the rule of voting with a secret ballot. We challenge them to reveal their votes and their reasons for rejecting Taguiwalo,” the party said.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND REINA C. TOLENTINO