THERE is no rhyme or reason why the Commission on Appointments (CA) should delay any further the confirmation of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
The existence of the commission is stipulated in Article VI, Section 18 of the Constitution, which states that:
“There shall be a Commission on Appointments consisting of the President of the Senate, as ex officio chairman, 12 senators, and 12 members of the House of Representatives, elected by each House on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The chairman of the commission shall not vote, except in case of a tie. The commission shall act on all appointments submitted to it within 30 session days of the Congress from their submission. The commission shall rule by a majority vote of all the members.”
It is presumed that the CA’s actions must always be done in good faith, and in pursuance of the public interest. As such, its constitutional duty is to confirm all appointments. The only possible grounds for rejecting a nominee would be if such nominee is unfit for the office, or lacks the necessary qualifications. The CA is also justified to reject a nominee who has violated laws, or has been found to have committed acts amounting to graft and corruption. The CA is also duty bound to reject a nominee who, by his or her acts and record, is proven to be a direct threat to public interest, more so to national security.
However, the CA is exceeding, if not abusing, its powers when it rejects a nominee for partisan or personal reasons. In fact, it is even expected of a member of the CA to inhibit from the deliberations when he or she has personal issues or relationships with the nominee, whether advantageous or inimical to the latter’s interest.
Secretary Judy Taguiwalo is more than fit to be secretary of social welfare and development. She has the academic experience, and the professional and personal predisposition to head the agency. She is not just a professor at the College of Social Work and Community Development at UP Diliman. She is also a tireless social activist and advocate for the poor and the marginalized, especially women.
During the period that she has been interim secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Judy has not violated any law. She has no administrative record that can impugn her morally and ethically. She has endeavored to represent what the President promised to the Filipino people. She embodied change and service to the people, especially to those who need government the most—the poor, the marginalized and the victimized, not only by natural calamities but also by social inequities.
Judy endeavors to serve the public interest. There is not a single iota of evidence to accuse her of having compromised President Duterte’s government, or of having undermined the DSWD. She is not a threat to the Filipino people. There is also no reason to doubt her mental fitness.
But despite this, the CA has deferred, sat down, or postponed action on her confirmation, enough for Judy to quip that this is almost like being tortured. For a woman who has served the people all her life, to a point that she suffered the price of physical torture and political persecution during Martial Law, to receive this kind of treatment from a constitutional body is nothing but another form of political violence.
For some members of the CA to make light of the misogynistic attitude that Senator Sotto showed towards Judy during the confirmation hearings, and for them to bristle at Judy’s supporters taking to task Sotto’s gender insensitivity, adds insult to the violence done on Judy.
What is infuriating is that the reason behind the CA’s treatment of Judy’s nomination is not even on the fact that she has violated a law. On the contrary, she is being treated this way precisely because she has upheld the law that was promulgated when the Supreme Court ruled the unconstitutionality of the pork barrel, and in principle and by implication, any pork-like transactions.
Denied of pork, many members of Congress set their eyes on the dispensation of government services, from scholarship referrals, to referrals to get free medical services, to being beneficiaries of the government’s 4Ps program.
The SC rulings has virtually closed the door on these legislators to enjoy the privilege of using these government services to cultivate their patronage networks, by virtue of their post-enactment earmarks enabled by the now defunct PDAF. It is because of this that they are seeking a new modus vivendi with agencies such as CHEd, DepEd, DoH and DSWD to skirt the high court ruling, and for them to continue to exert influence on the determination of who should benefit from social services dispensed by these agencies.
The CA should not punish Judy for standing her ground. She should be rewarded for continuing to uphold the law by refusing to allow members of Congress to dip into and meddle in the DSWD’s prerogative to determine the qualified beneficiaries, and by resisting moves to turn the agency into an apparatus of patronage.
The CA has to redeem its tarnished image as being a party to an injustice against someone who simply upholds the law.
Secretary Judy Taguiwalo should be confirmed. And fast.