The Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed en masse several top government officials, including Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, during Wednesday’s session marred by a couple of walk outs by two senators.
Aside from Gonzalez and Puno, the CA confirmed the heads of Commission on Audit (COA) and Commission on Elections (Comelec), eight ambassadors and 47 foreign service officers, and 40 military officers including the appointment of Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano.
Gonzalez and Puno gave out sighs of relief after receiving their confirmations. The justice secretary has been appointed by the president 19 times, while the interior secretary was appointed nine times.
"Not many of us here know he (Gonzalez) took and passed the bar in 1955 with a grade of 99 percent in the Remedial Law," said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who pushed for the justice chief’s confirmation.
On the other hand, it was Senate President Pro-Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada who endorsed Puno’s nomination. Puno played a major role in Mrs. Arroyo’s move to give executive clemency to ousted President Joseph Estrada last year after his conviction by an anti-graft court.
Other notables who received their confirmation are Secretaries Margarito Teves of Finance, Francisco Duque of Health, and Rolando Andaya of Budget and Comelec chief Jose Melo .
The session, the last one for the first regular session of the 14th Congress, was marred by the walkout of Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal who protested the alleged unconstitutional composition of the 25-member bicameral appointments body.
Immediately upon convening, Madrigal stood up to announce she was going to the Supreme Court (SC) to file a "complaint to nullify all actions made by this anomalous and illegal commission."
Madrigal said the "old boys' club" mentality in the present CA allows the railroading of the appointments of several Cabinet members.
She said Senate President Manuel Villar was being a fence-sitter for failing to act on her petition to change the composition of the CA.
"The composition of the Senate and House panels of the CA does not conform with the constitutional provision on party representation. I have no choice but to bring this matter to the Supreme Court to nullify the actions of the present CA," she told radio dzMM.
She added that the CA should just be scrapped and its P262 million budget given to the public if it continues to be a rubber stamp of the administration. She said the questionable composition of the CA panels robs it of the moral authority to confirm the appointments of Cabinet members.
Villar, meanwhile, said he respects Madrigal’s opinion.
"Iginagalang ko ang kanyang karapatan na sabihin ang gusto niyang sabihin. At very firm ang members ng commission na tama naman ang aming kalagayan," said the Senate president, who sits as the chairman of the CA.
Villar also asserted that the commission is prepared to answer any petition that will be filed by Madrigal before the SC.
He said the commission is doing its job as he cited the huge number of appointees confirmed.
Villar added that the composition of the CA was the decision of the body itself and is not up to him alone.
As of posting time, Madrigal had yet to file her petition with the tribunal, whose docket section was closed to give way to the SC's anniversary celebrations.
Later in the day, Sen. Panfilo Lacson also walked out over the insistence of his colleagues to confirm Air Force Col. Arthur Abadilla, whom the senator was opposing because he was promoted less than one year before his retirement which he said was in violation of the law.