House, Senate fear last appointees

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Katrina Stuart Santiago

I HAVE never cared as much as I do now about the Commission on Appointments and the “process” it goes through to confirm presidential appointees.

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Because to my mind, if the people that PNoy appointed for Daang Matuwid were confirmed by the commission, how is it possible that people like Judy Taguiwalo, Rafael Mariano, and Gina Lopez will not be confirmed?

I mean, we’re talking about a past social welfare secretary (and interior secretary too!) who messed up Yolanda relief operations for all the world to see, by insisting that survivors of the strongest typhoon to make landfall needed to go back to their barangay so they could be ticked off a voters’ list before being given relief goods— because god forbid they are given more than they need at a time when they don’t have homes and their barangay have been wiped out!

We’re talking about a past environment secretary who watched as irresponsible mining companies went on business as usual, despite writs of kalikasan issued against them by the Supreme Court, despite protests from the communities, despite flashfloods and the death of agricultural lands, forests and rivers.

We’re talking a past agrarian reform secretary who sat on the Supreme Court decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita lands, who allowed the Cojuangcos to get away with refusing to respect that Supreme Court decision. And with Hacienda Luisita untouched, certainly there was no hope for all other farmers and peasants working lands owned by other oligarchs.

If these people could work for most of Daang Matuwid, why the hell are we not giving Secretaries Taguiwalo, Mariano, and Lopez a fair chance at serving the people and proving themselves?

Gina gets a no
As I write this, news has broken of Gina Lopez not getting the nod of the Commission on Appointments. My source says that it was a 15-8-1 vote, with 15 voting against her confirmation, and it looks like it was a block vote coming from our Congress reps.

That is telling, isn’t it? Because how many members of Congress are actually part of families that own mining companies? How many are complicit in the continuation of mining operations in their districts and provinces, no matter communities that have suffered land grabbing and militarization, no matter the death of rivers, deforestation, flash floods, air pollution?

And this is really the thing about the Commission on Appointments being run by our Congress reps and senators: it reveals their personal interests to weigh heavier than anything else. That personal gains and interests even matter at all in this decision is problematic. That it was the personal interests that won over in the case of Sec Gina, tells us that this same body has been making decisions in favor only of itself.

Never mind what is good for the people, what is happening on the ground, how the laws are circumvented by irresponsible mines. Never mind the majority who have suffered in the hands of the more powerful.

This has been happening for decades, and mining companies have had free rein. It would’ve made sense to just confirm Sec Gina’s appointment and allow President Duterte to prove that he was correct in appointing her.

Ah, but Congress reps with mining interests were afraid to lose the cash they’ve been making out of environment secretaries who just watch as irresponsible mining continues.

Waiting on Manay Judy, Ka Paeng
Now it’s a waiting game for the confirmation of the appointments of Sec Judy and Ka Paeng to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Agrarian Reform, respectively.

And one wants to be hopeful, but then one remembers why exactly they have refused to confirm Sec Judy. It’s because of Memorandum Circular 9, where she highlighted the fact that referrals from public officials for funding purported priority projects in their districts would not get preferential treatment over all other referrals. And that ultimately it is the DSWD that will decide where its funds for protective services programs (PSPs) will go.

Apparently, Congress reps had felt entitled to their “share” in the funds of PSP, because to them this is for the poor in their districts anyway, and so the funds should be coursed through them. But that is exactly how the pork barrel used to work, yes? Congress reps and senators would get funds from government on the premise of using those funds for local projects. And it was that system that we fought against when we went out to rally against pork in 2013.

Yet Daang Matuwid apparently kept the pork barrel system alive and well – despite announcing that PDAF was abolished already. Sec Judy is continuing that fight at the DSWD, insisting that service programs can be done in coordination with Congress reps, and funds can be coursed through the DSWD straight to beneficiaries. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Not to our Congress reps who continue to operate on a pork barrel system, and oh how they fear losing the opportunity to get funds into their pockets, before using it for their districts!

Ka Paeng meanwhile is up against hacenderos and landlords, and believe me when I say that they are also in Congress and the Senate. So, you can imagine how afraid they are of an agrarian reform secretary who has worked with farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, breaking down the fences the Cojuangcos have put up. You can imagine how afraid they are of Ka Paeng, who has ordered the police to assist farmers of Lapanday to reclaim land that the Lorenzos have refused to give them.

You can imagine how afraid Congress and the Senate are that their haciendas and lands are next.

Here’s another thing to think about: how do you think our Congress reps who are also hacenderos and landlords, treat their farmers? Because if they have followed the law to the letter about how much land they can keep, if they have worked on ensuring that farmers get the land that has been awarded them, then they should have nothing to worry about. In fact, they would be glad that Ka Paeng is the DAR secretary who will further assist farmers in their fight for survival and empowerment.

But of course, how many congressmen and senators, landlords and hacenderos, actually care for farmers and peasants?

Our eyes are on you, and there is no forgiveness on these last two appointments.

Confirm Manay Judy and Ka Paeng, now na! ***

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8 Comments

  1. Wolfgang E. Struck on

    Dear Katrina,

    Congratulations! This is indeed a strong message to the Filipino people to wake up to reality. You said it all. You do not have to name names as they are all the same, any of th same old families who fought Marcos already. I am looking forward to read more of your work. You are on the right track. We are the richest country in the world thanks to Ferdinand Marcos. They are hiding the truth from the people.

    WES

  2. GREED IS ONE OF THE ROOT CAUSES OF EVIL…and majority of the greedy politicians are working in congress and senate. That is why our country is in a bad state even with a President that is trying to make things better for the majority of the Filipino people :-(

  3. Keep on writing and highlighting such issues, Ms. Santiago. It is disgusting that the CA can vote against the appointment of Gina Lopez and maintain their anonymity on the vote. They should be named and shamed. Let them provide their reasons to the public why they have voted against Gina. Let their constituents question them.

  4. Chris Espiritu on

    It is very saddening to note that to be a part of any government institution is first and foremost is to be incompetent and most of a all a lackey to the personal interests of the oligarchs. The Status Quo must remain the same. Their rejection of Sec. Gina Lopez is a complete display of their arrogance and lack of faith in her capabilities. Sadly, her fate might be shared by Manang Judy and Ka Paeng, This is the Daang Matuwid Legacy!

  5. Ernie Ileto on

    Katrina you are a breath of fresh air amid the foul stench emanating from the Commission on Appoinments’ rejection of Gina Lopez as DENR Secretary. Congress is populated by big time crooks like the landlord Cojuangcos, Roxases and Aquinos, illegal miners like the Erices and Zamoras who would not bat an eyelash in the massacre of farmers and Lumad as they are fighting for their ancestral lands. Godspeed you as you continue to write about these tragic realities in our country and what needs to be done to correct them.

  6. Amnata Pundit on

    There are many ways to clean up the mining industry, but Lopez did it the old society pre-martial law oligarch way, and that is to run roughshod over everybody regardless, and she topped it by exempting her family’s mining company. The madwoman had to be stopped. What’s the difference between Marcos’ attempt to reform society by declaring martial law and this Lopez woman’s attempt to clean up the mining industry martial law style?

  7. Lou Pasetes on

    These are the societal issues that are also to be fought for by the media and on the streets by the people (activists). They have to demonstrate before the Congress for Manay Judy and Ka Paeng, both pro-people. If they are not confirmed, it only shows that the CA is not pro-people but for their own personal interests or for the interests of their benefactors / political contributors and just mere marionettes. Their being with the President’s party is just for convenience or political exigency and not to assist the President in his effort to improve the lives of the people i.e. the whole country.

    Others just muddle these issues by pounding incessantly and sometimes wrongly on the issue of EJK.