MANILA - The fate of four Cabinet members, including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima hangs in the balance, as the Commission on Appointments (CA) will finally vote on their appointments in the next two weeks.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, CA majority leader, told The STAR over the weekend that officers of the commission led by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento have decided to force a vote on the four pending Cabinet appointments.
“We feel that these appointments have been pending for so long that we should now make a decision – approve them or reject them,” he said.
The commission empowered by the Constitution to scrutinize Cabinet appointments and major promotions in the military and diplomatic service is composed of 25 members – 12 senators and 12 congressmen, with Drilon as ex-officio chairman.
Sarmiento, as head of the 12-member contingent from the House of Representatives, is CA vice chairman.
The appointments of De Lima and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla are still pending with the appropriate CA committees.
But Fariñas said the commission, by a vote of at least 13 of its members, has the power to take the appointments out of the committees and put them to a plenary vote.
“That we intend to do in our last two meetings before our sine die (annual) adjournment,” he said.
The last two CA sessions will be on Wednesday and next Wednesday. Congress will adjourn its first regular session next weekend.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the 12 House members sitting in the commission, said he would support the confirmation of De Lima, Paje and Soliman.
“The three have performed well in their respective departments. In the case of Secretary Petilla, I will oppose his confirmation for failing to address the power crisis in Mindanao, which is still suffering from long hours of rotating brownouts,” he said.
Another member of the House-CA panel, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano lll, said he would most likely go for approving the pending Cabinet appointments.
“Barring any major issue against an appointee, I would like to respect President Aquino’s prerogative to choose who he would like to work with. After all, he is the one responsible and answerable to the people for the performance of his Cabinet,” he said.
Aside from Rodriguez, Sen. Sergio Osmeña lll is questioning the qualification of Petilla to solve the country’s energy problems. Osmeña and the energy chief have a raging word war on how to handle the power crisis.
The senator has said Petilla is a good man, but that he is still acting as a politician in his job as energy secretary. Petilla is a former Leyte governor.
Unfortunately for the former governor, his critic is not only a senator but is chairman as well of the CA energy committee, where his appointment is pending.
In De Lima’s case, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, one of the 12 senators sitting in the CA, has vowed to oppose her confirmation.
Estrada can count on the support of his minority allies, including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Vicente Sotto lll, and those who feel they have been unfairly dragged into the pork barrel fund misuse controversy.
Estrada, along with Enrile and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., is facing a plunder case filed by the Department of Justice with the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Revilla is not a CA member. The other senators sitting in the commission are Teofisto Guingona lll, Alan Peter Cayetano, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Aquilino Pimentel lll, Ralph Recto, and Antonio Trillanes IV.
Of the four Cabinet officials in limbo, Petilla is the newest appointee. He was appointed in October 2012. He succeeded Jose Rene Almendras, who was named secretary to the Cabinet.