A member of the Commission on Appointments (CA) has asked the commission to defer judgment on the ad interim appointment of Secretary Regina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In making the request, Rep. Josephine Ramirez Sato of Occidental Mindoro referred to the decision of Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, head of the CA Committee on Natural Resources, to end public hearings on Lopez’s appointment.
Sato raised questions about Lopez’s definition of watershed, opinion on the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) review of mine closures and contract-cancelation orders and choices for important positions at the deparment.
Lopez had admitted during a hearing that the 1995 Mining Law only prohibits mining in critical watersheds, not in all proclaimed watersheds.
She, however, wants to ban mining in all proclaimed watersheds, insisting that it is within her power to institute government policies such as sparing all proclaimed watersheds from all mining extractions or where the government has awarded mining companies contracts to explore and extract minerals.
“Lopez’s definition of watershed is clearly not in the law, which poses a big problem. Cabinet members should ensure they know the law, which they swore to uphold and enforce by heart,” Sato said in a statement.
“I admire her passion, but the law is the law is the law. It may be harsh, it may be flawed, but that is the law. I am very much willing to hear from her what needs to be done and I will file a bill in the House of Representatives to make that happen. But it has to be done within the purview of the law. Any gaps in the law must be dealt with by amending the law or enactment of another law,” Sato, a lawyer, added.
She said she shares Lopez’s anti-mining stance, with Occidental Mindoro under a 25-year mining moratorium during her term as governor.
Her province is among the first local government units (LGUs) that banned mining for the protection and conservation of natural wealth in the entire province.
“I ask these difficult questions to bring out the best in the nominees. It is meant to gauge their competence, not a personal attack,” Sato said.
A presidential appointment can only be confirmed if all 25 members of the CA panel would agree to confirmation of the President’s nominee.
“As far as hiring of consultants is concerned, it is [Lopez’s] prerogative to bring in her own team, but there is a law that protects civil servants against unjust removal from government positions. To lead the DENR effectively, she should be able to rally the people in the DENR behind her cause,” Sato said.
LLANESCA T. PANTI