De Lima faces Senate, CA critics

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 03 2014 04:02 AM | Updated as of Jun 03 2014 12:02 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will face her critics in the Senate and the Commission on Appointments (CA) tomorrow in a confirmation hearing.

The CA justice committee, chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, will hold the hearing shortly before the commission’s weekly plenary session.

In a radio interview, Pimentel said he expects De Lima to be confirmed, since the 12-member contingent of the House of Representatives in the CA has given its “solid support” for the justice secretary.

As for the 13 senators sitting in the CA, he said no one has indicated to him his or her opposition to De Lima’s confirmation.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada has vowed to oppose the approval of De Lima’s appointment. He is one of three senators against whom the Department of Justice had filed plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

The two others are Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. Estrada and Enrile sit in the CA.

Reached for comment on Pimentel’s statement, Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, who heads the House-CA contingent, said in a text message, “Will feel the situation on Wednesday as basis for our collective action.”

For his part, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who is CA majority leader, said he is not aware of any decision taken by the House panel on the justice secretary’s appointment.

In any case, he said he does not expect De Lima to hurdle the committee-level and CA plenary proceedings tomorrow.

“I doubt that her confirmation can be done in one meeting. It will be her first appearance before the CA in almost four years,” he said.

The justice secretary, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje have failed to get the CA’s green light since they joined President Aquino’s Cabinet.

Also pending confirmation is Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, who succeeded Jose Rene Almendras in October 2012.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a member of the House-CA panel, said he would oppose Petilla’s confirmation because the energy secretary “has failed to solve the power crisis in Mindanao, which is still suffering from long hours of brownouts.”

“I will support the confirmation of Secretaries de Lima, Soliman and Paje, since they have performed well in their respective departments,” he said.

Like De Lima, Soliman, Paje and Petilla are expected to face the committees handling their appointments either tomorrow or next Wednesday, when the CA holds its last meeting before Congress ends its first regular session next weekend.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda stressed the officials would be reappointed if they fail to hurdle the CA.

“But, hopefully, Cabinet secretaries can be confirmed before they go into recess,” Lacierda said. – With Aurea Calica