MANILA – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez testified during the confirmation hearing of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, where he alleged a lack of due process in an industry-wide mining audit.
Dominguez said he was invited by the “chairman of this committee,” without referring to a specific member of the Commission on Appointments. His presentation and subsequent questioning from legislators lasted roughly two and a half hours.
Even as Dominguez called out Lopez’s “failure” to include all sectors, he denied having a “spat” with his Cabinet colleague.
Dominguez and Lopez co-chair the Mineral Industry Coordinating Committee, which has set a review of Lopez’s decision to shut down or suspend 28 mines.
Lopez asked President Rodrigo Duterte last week to suspend the review for lack of authority but Dominguez told the CA on Tuesday that it was necessary to “make sure that the deficiencies are covered.”
“There was some kind of failure in the discharge of due process,” Dominguez said.
The finance chief said Lopez did not consult various agencies, including the social welfare and labor departments on the closures, which could cost the government P821 million in lost revenues.
Lopez was not invited to Tuesday’s hearing. She defended her actions and faced more than 20 oppositors to her appointment during marathon hearings last week.
The CA is expected to bypass Lopez on Tuesday, according to Sen. Manny Pacquiao. This means President Rodrigo Duterte must reappoint her as environment secretary if he wants to keep her in the Cabinet.
Duterte said on the eve of the hearing that he saw “no reason” to drop Lopez, as he called out mining companies for damaging the environment.
Senator Franklin Drilon told Dominguez that Duterte had repeatedly expressed support for Lopez and in effect, “sustained the action of the DENR.”
“I cannot read the President’s mind and I don’t know what he meant,” Dominguez said.
“Until the President signs the closure order, the matter is not closed. There is a procedure to be followed on the appeals,” he said.
NOT ANOTHER PIATCO
Finance officials have said that the review was necessary to prevent legal questions similar to the government’s botched deal with PIATCO, the Filipino-German consortium that built NAIA Terminal 3.
“It is imperative that we conduct this review. If not, we can be faced with lawsuits,” Dominguez told the CA on Tuesday.
Pressed by one lawmaker about his relationship with Lopez, Dominguez said: “There is no spat.”
“As I said I am part of team, my part is to make sure the risk to government liabilities are managed and they are managed by making sure due process is being followed... We are just operating the mechanism,” he said.