THE rejection by the Commission on Appointments of the nomination of Judy Taguiwalo as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development –and the consequent protest of some groups against her denial—presents a good opportunity for the Duterte administration and the nation to review earnestly the wisdom of President Duterte’s policy of opening his Cabinet and administration to members or former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), without demanding that they formally sever connections with the party and its program to topple the government of the day.
In the same manner, the situation should be a good occasion for the CPP to review its own decision to join the Duterte government, without being invited to formally establish a coalition government with the President.
We do not know whether the two other CPP nominees in the administration –Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chairman Liza Masa—will suffer the same fate at the congressional appointments body. Or if the same reservations of the legislators will apply in their cases.
The point we want to emphasize here is this: Neither Taguiwalo nor Malacañang has been earnest about her appointment to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) portfolio.
If Taguiwalo believes in her work and if she truly supported the policies and programs of the Duterte presidency, and wanted it to succeed, why did she join the rally/demonstration of the militant left against the President during his Second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month?
Where are her real convictions?
If President Duterte really thought that Taguiwalo was the right person for the DSWD, why did he not push Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, and instruct his legislative liaison staff to make a special effort to secure Taguiwalo’s confirmation?
When the President made what was then considered to be a bold move to offer positions in his Cabinet to the CPP at the beginning of his administration—the Labor, Agrarian Reform and Social Welfare and Development portfolios and several sub-Cabinet posts—it was done in hopes of reviving and moving forward the stalled peace negotiations in order to bring to an end to the decades-long communist insurgency.
The President “walked the extra mile” and freed rebel leaders so they could participate in the talks and the government even asked the US State Department to remove the CPP’s Netherlands-based founder and leader, Jose Maria Sison, from its terrorist blacklist.
In August last year, a ceasefire was declared and formal negotiations between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front reopened in Norway. But since then, both sides have accused each other of truce violations and negotiating in bad faith. The military said the communists took advantage of the talks to recruit fighters and extort money from businesses.
In late July, the President announced a stop to the negotiations with the communists following attacks launched by the rebels on government forces, including Duterte’s own security escorts in Palawan and North Cotabato. He said he would go after the communist insurgents after the military disposes of the Maute terrorists in Marawi City. For good measure, he ordered the arrest of the rebel leaders who had been released earlier so they could join the talks in Norway.
There is no indication that the President has similarly soured on the many leftists that he has appointed to important positions in his Cabinet. It is reasonable to assume that they continue to enjoy his trust and support.
With three members of the Duterte Cabinet rejected by the Commission on Appointments, and the Senate emphatically declaring its opposition to the restoration of the death penalty, it’s reasonable to conclude that the 16th Congress is not a mere rubber stamp of President Duterte. It can say no.
The congressional power to advise and consent to appointments is real and constitutional.