THE Commission on Appointments’ rejection of Judy Taguiwalo’s nomination as Social Welfare and Development secretary is yet another low point for Congress, which has sunk to so many lows under the current dispensation.
This is the third appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte to be thumbed down by the congressional panel; the first two were Perfecto Yasay Jr. as Foreign Affairs secretary and Regina Paz Lopez as secretary of Environment and Natural resources.
Yasay’s rejection was warranted because he lied to the commission about his American citizenship. But Lopez’s and Taguiwalo’s failure to hurdle the 24-person appointments body is unfortunate and emblematic of a wheeling-and-dealing Congress.
Lopez’s exit from the Duterte Cabinet was widely lamented as she had launched a crackdown on destructive mining, which in turn forced the mining lobby to block her confirmation with the help of allies in Congress.
Public regret for Taguiwalo’s departure will be even more significant, as no one is more eminently qualified to handle the Social Welfare portfolio than she. In fact, she’s more qualified to serve in government than those who voted (secretly) to reject her Cabinet appointment.
For years, Taguiwalo taught at the UP College of Social Work and Community Development, and headed the UP Center for Women’s Studies. As an academic, she possessed the requisite higher degrees: a master’s in public administration from Canada and a doctorate in Philippine studies from UP. Yet she was deeply in touch with the grassroots, no doubt as a result of her past involvement with the communist underground.
Her activist background, the public was led to believe, militated against her confirmation.
But what really did her in was her refusal to go along with deeply entrenched patronage politics. It was no secret lawmakers wanted a say on how the Department of Social Welfare and Development spent its budget, in aid of reelection.
As Social Welfare secretary, Taguiwalo also made good on the President’s call for “change” by ending the practice of requiring indigents seeking government assistance to bring endorsement letters from their congressmen.
Congress has only succeeded in further embarrassing itself following Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd’s chauvinist quip on Taguiwalo’s single parenthood during one of confirmation sessions.
It has also served notice to Taguiwalo’s fellow activist, Rafael Mariano, the Agrarian Reform secretary, who himself had ruffled not a few landed-class feathers.
The message is loud and clear—Congress, or at least the Commission on Appointments, doesn’t care about change. Nor does it require sterling qualifications, a life of public service, or a record untainted by corruption. One must only kowtow to the overlords of Congress.
Instead, Taguiwalo stood up to them. What an honorable act.