The many faces of the Commission on Appointments

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EFREN L. DANAO

EFREN L. DANAO

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte announced recently that he would reappoint all Cabinet members bypassed by the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA).

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Since the 17th Congress has been on recess only once since it convened in July 2016, bypassed Cabinet members will be reappointed just for the first time. In all probability, they will be reappointed as many times as they’re bypassed for the President has unchecked power to extend limitless numbers of reappointment.

How different it is from the normal practice in the United States! Former Sen. Nene Pimentel told me that once an appointment is bypassed by the US Senate panel equivalent to our CA, this almost automatically causes the US president to withdraw the appointment or nomination. CA members may shout in utter frustration but they can’t prevent any reappointment as long as they don’t reject the appointment.

Many presidential appointees get bypassed either because they stepped on the toes of some CA members or they wouldn’t, couldn’t play ball. The late appointment of the late Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez was bypassed 25 times but was reappointed 25 times by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Finance Secretary Margarito Teves was confirmed only on May 8, 2008 after holding the finance portfolio for almost three years.

Controversial appointees had to suffer public humiliation at their confirmation hearings from CA members they had crossed before. Among them were Mike Defensor, Angelo Reyes, Ronaldo Puno, Antonio Cerilles, and the previously mentioned Teves and Gonzalez. Oh yes, I should also add the eminent journalist Amando Doronila whose appointment as ambassador to the European Union went nowhere, courtesy of vengeful CA members who felt the sting of his incisive pen. He refused any reappointment after getting bypassed several times.

The many medals from heroic exploits earned by a military officer were ignored by the CA members who put more weight on politics. Lt./Gen Emmanuel Teodoso’s promotion was bypassed twice, the last one because he refused to answer a question on the relief of B/Gen. Francisco Gudani as head of Task Force Ranao during the counting of the 2004 presidential election. He said he would answer this question “only in the proper forum.”

Teodosio first gained national attention in 1987 when his First Marine Brigade stormed Camp Aguinaldo that was then held by rebel soldiers led by then Col. Gregorio Honasan. The Marines liberated the camp and rescued six generals, including Gen. Eduardo Ermita, the AFP chief of staff. He also led the military forces that captured 25 camps of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, including its main camp, Camp Abubakar.

All of his services for the country were ignored when he insisted that his appointment should be considered on its merits and not on a political issue where he was in a no-win situation.

“If I say something that’s not favorable to the opposition, they will block my confirmation. If I say something that’s not favorable to the administration, the administration may not renew my promotion and there’ll be no Lt/Gen. Teodosio,” he said.

His frankness led to more problems with the minority members of the CA. In the end, Teodosio had to make profuse apologies to the CA. He also said he was surprised at the relief of Gudani, while stressing that Gudani was not under him but under Gen. Roy Cimacu of the Southern Command. His promotion was finally confirmed in December 2004, a month before his compulsory retirement from military service.

As stated before, many appointees consider their appearance in confirmation hearings a “humbling experience.” Yet, they return to these hearings like masochists. There’s only one exception– Law Dean Rufus Rodriguez who refused to be reappointed by PGMA as ambassador to Germany the first time he was bypassed.

Enduring humiliation at CA confirmation hearings, however, could pay dividends. Justice Secretary Gonzales got confirmed after four years and getting bypassed 25 times. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, whose family had been attacked by Gonzalez, surprised everybody by manifesting at the confirmation hearing on June 4, 2008 that he wouldn’t object to the confirmation of the Justice secretary who had just undergone a kidney transplant operation.

“After his discharge from the hospital, I noticed a change in his attitude. I appeal to all members to allow Secretary Gonzalez to spend the rest of his life in public service,” Estrada said.

“Wait a minute! That sounds like a eulogy,” Sen. Dick Gordon riposted.

Not all appointees, however, go thru a wringer at the CA. At the confirmation hearing of Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz in 2005, Sen. Loi Estrada asked him if he was from Zambales.

“Yes Your Honor. I was born in the Ilocano side of San Marcelino, Zambales,” Cruz replied.

“If only for that, you have my vote,” said the lady senator who was also a native of Zambales.

She was followed by Sen. Mar Roxas who asked Cruz if his wife was aware of the existence of his multitude of assets.

“Being a dutiful husband, I report all my assets to my wife,” Cruz affirmed.

“A person who is truthful to his wife is good enough to handle an executive position,” Roxas said.

As far as I can recall, the fastest confirmation hearing was that of the late Press Secretary Cerge Remonde on May 13, 2009. Before any CA member could ask any question to Remonde, Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, the CA vice chairman, immediately moved for the referral to the plenary Remonde’s appointment. The hearing lasted less than five minutes.

19espiloy47@gmail.com

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