Deliberation on Comelec appointees, other Duterte picks deferred anew

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 30 2022 04:18 PM | Updated as of May 30 2022 06:27 PM

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC), led by Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan (right) and Commissioner George Garcia, gives the media a briefing on the production of the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) at their warehouse in Sta Rosa Laguna on March 14, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC), led by Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan (right) and Commissioner George Garcia, gives the media a briefing on the production of the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) at their warehouse in Sta Rosa Laguna on March 14, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATED) -- The hearing for the five constitutional agency nominees of President Rodrigo Duterte at the Commission on Appointments (CA) has been deferred after it was briefly held Monday.

The five nominees include the following:

• Rizalina Justol – chairperson of the Commission on Audit (COA)
• Karlo Alexei Nograles – chairman of the Civil Service Commission (CSC)
• George Erwin Garcia – commissioner, Commission on Elections (Comelec)
• Aimee Torrefranca-Neri – commissioner, Comelec
• Saidamen Balt Pangarungan – chairman, Comelec

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguezl Zubiri cited the argument of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile that it would be "unfair to the next president if they will be appointed by the outgoing president." 

Zubiri said it should be the next president, in this case, President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., who should be given the privilege to appoint the officers in the said agencies.

Should his colleagues insist in hearing the nominees’ confirmation, Zubiri repeatedly warned he will raise Section 20 of the CA Rules which is about the “Suspension of Consideration of Nominations or Appointments."

Some of his colleagues, he claimed, are also thinking of doing the same since sine die adjournment will be on June 3, should they continue the hearing.

Zubiri said he has nothing against the said nominees but is only echoing Enrile’s view.

“The Commission on Audit. Therefore, a position of seven years. Ibig sabihin, this new president, with a mandate of 31 million votes will not be even be able to appoint the head of the COA, until even before the last day of his term, because she would have a longer period of time,” Zubiri said.
 
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III contradicted Zubiri’s position, citing the good credentials of Justol.

“With the appointee before us, nasasayangan lang naman ako kasi walang oposisyon, there’s no oppositor against her. Tapos sa kaniyang biodata, yung mga career highlights niya, most outstanding accountant… Maybe we can proceed on a case-to-case basis,” Pimentel said.

“Like this one before... Maybe a relaxation of that proposal can be requested,” Pimentel added.

Zubiri formalized his position by moving to defer the hearing of the five nominees to Wednesday, the last day of the CA hearings and plenary session.

Any nominee who will be bypassed on Wednesday will automatically lose the post.

In reaction to Zubiri's position, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said it is a policy but not a rule.

“That’s a matter of policy. It’s not a rule, it’s a policy. A matter of allowing the next administration to put their own people in positions because they’re the ones who were voted upon and will be responsible for the next six years. I repeat, it is a policy issue, not a rule of law,” he said.

Presidential appointees holding “ad interim appointment,” should they fail to bag the CA nod, will automatically lose their post and end their term starting June 1, the “sine die adjournment” of both Houses of Congress, Drilon added.

Those who maybe bypassed by the CA can still be reappointed by the next president. The story, however, will be different if a nominee was rejected.

“My view is if they are rejected, they cannot be reappointed. I’m relying on the rules in the Constitution that those who are rejected cannot be reappointed, whether in the present administration or the next administration. Because the rejection clearly makes the finding that you are not qualified, or you do not have the qualifications to be appointed for that position. And that disqualification is personal to you,” Drilon said.

Justol and Nograles both begged off to issue any statement pending their next hearing.

Garcia, in an interview, said they respect the CA’s “wisdom” but are already prepared as to their would-be fate on Wednesday.

This is the second time that the Comelec commissioners' nominations have been deferred by the CA.

“Sa amin naman po, whether matuloy ngayon o matuloy sa Wednesday, handa naman po ang mga miyembro, especially kami nina Chairman (Pangarungan), Commissioner Neri, ako personally, on what will happen to us,” Garcia said.

Garcia touted their performance in the recently concluded elections, saying the outcome is a strong proof they can effectively perform the job at the Comelec.

“Simply because at least ang importante lang doon sa panahon na andiyan ako sa Comelec, at least we were able to conduct a very honest and peaceful elections. That is important. Whatever will happen to us, that is a matter of fate. And I am willing to accept my fate as far as the confirmation is concerned. So whether it happens today or sa Wednesday, then so be it,” he said.

“At least, we have a something to prove to one and all, and to the members of the CA and the entire country that we have done something to the betterment of our republic, and that is the conduct of free, honest and orderly elections,” Garcia said.

All three Comelec nominees are facing opposition from private individuals before the CA, Garcia said.

Not included in Monday’s CA hearing was Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Abdullah Mama-o who also received his ad interim appointment before March 9 ban on appointments, or two months before the May 9 elections.

Meanwhile, Zubiri admitted that some incoming Cabinet members of Marcos Jr., during their post-proclamation meeting, have "discussed" with him the idea of giving the latter the opportunity to pick his own men for the constitutional bodies.

"I know for a fact that many members of the future Cabinet of President BBM have asked me personally na ibigay na lang yang opportunity nay an sa ating bagong pangulo, which I think is a very reasonable request. I do not know if they also going to call other members of the CA or if the outgoing administration wll also call the CA," Zubiri dsclosed.

"To be honest about it, we had a discussion about it in the proclamation, when we were briefly in the Executive Lounge. May mga kausap ako na incoming Cabinet secretaries. And yan ang pakiusap nila sa akin. And it’s very reasonable," he added.

Such request he said is reasonable, given the mandate given to Marcos by Filipinos as shown by his received 31 million votes in the recently-concluded 2022 elections.

The third CA hearing for the five constitutional officers will resume on Wednesday.

“Let’s listen to them in the morning, and then in the afternoon magkakaroon po kami ng caucus… Kung mangyayari dyan kung magkakaroon ng botohan they need to have 13 votes to confirm. They need 13 votes," Zubiri said.

FROM THE ARCHIVE

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