MANILA — Some intimate details of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Erwin Tulfo's personal and professional life were unearthed during the Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing Tuesday, prompting the Cabinet official to request an executive session to discuss the lawmakers' inquiries.
Tulfo's appointment was not tackled by the CA before it went on a month-long break September. The CA resumed its deliberation Tuesday, with Tulfo's fitness as DWSD secretary scrutinized.
Caloocan First District Rep. Oscar Malapitan initially inquired about Tulfo’s experience as a US Army personnel from 1988 to 1992 and his supposed US citizenship.
“Ni-renounce niyo ho ba ang inyong Filipino citizenship?” Malapitan asked Tulfo.
(Did you renounce your Filipino citizenship?)
The Secretary responded by saying: “I would like to ask for an executive session on this matter.”
House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta then asked about Tulfo's military assignment in Europe from 1992 to 1996.
“To me an enlisted personnel in the US Army, either you are a citizen by birth. Meaning to say, you are a US citizen, or you have acquired US citizenship by naturalization. Or that you are a lawful resident… What is the status of your citizenship when you are enlisted, when you were in US Army and when you served in active military station in Europe?” Marcoleta asked.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada intervened and reiterated Tulfo's request for an executive session.
Marcoleta also raised Tulfo’s libel conviction, which he said is an issue of “moral turpitude” that disqualifies any individual from holding public office.
Tulfo said that libel is one of the "hazards of the trade" as a journalist.
“That case is related to my profession as a journalist. There was a conviction for libel… I was a columnist and I write about a government official actually. And I had my sources, and I was compelled by the court to divulge my sources but I did not. It went over to the Court of Appeals up to the Supreme Court,” Tulfo explained.
But Marcoleta rejected Tulfo's argument.
“You are convicted as a journalist, but that doesn’t change the situation. You can [be] convicted either way, in any other vocation... In some other cases disposed by the Supreme Court, there were certain people who are disqualified from holding office because they have been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude. This is the dilemma," Marcoleta said.
Sen. Francis Escudero, however, said disqualifying Tulfo for the DSWD post over the conviction is "unfair," given that there are even moves to decriminalize libel.
“In fact, the visit by our own Secretary of Justice to the United Nations, that was even suggested by the Canadian representative. I myself is an author of the bill seeking to decriminalize libel. So, if this will be taken against the nominee then later on that bill is approved by Congress, I think it would be prejudicial to say the least and unfair if we will be taking that against him," Escudero argued.
'COLORFUL LOVE LIFE'
Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte Second District Rep. Johnny Pimentel went into Tulfo's personal life, particularly his "10 children from several women."
“I suppose you had a very colorful love life and there were four women or the mothers?” Pimentel asked.
Tulfo answered yes.
“We’ve separated. Yes, we are in good terms. We are in talking terms, including all my children. Some of them are in the United States, and some are here,” Tulfo said.
Pimentel then asked if "meeting women" would distract Tulfo in his work at DSWD.
“Considering that in your line of work, the moment you are the Secretary of DSWD, I suppose you will be meeting a lot of women in your work. Hindi po ba magiging sagabal sa trabaho mo yun na marami kang makikitang babae?” Pimentel asked.
(Wouldn't it be a hindrance to your work, that you'd see many women?)
Tulfo said he has already learned his lesson and now "look differently at life."
“But I’m not ashamed to say that I made mistakes. And from that mistakes, you have to make corrections and adjust. And you have to bring it all the way, until you grow old,” Tulfo said.
Tulfo's request for an executive session was granted but his confirmation was still deferred due to some issues.
“May report na nabasa sa CA member, we want further verification. Meron pa kaming ita-tackle... We decided to defer for the moment, pending requirements submission sa mga tanong ng members ng Commission,” Camarines Sur Second District Rep. LRay Villafuerte said.
(A CA member read a report and we want further verification. We still have something to tackle.)
After the hearing, Tulfo admitted he became an American citizen sometime in the late 1980s but already renounced it this year and is now a Filipino citizen.
“I renounced it to be a Filipino citizen.. this year... I know that they’ll be asking it. I come prepared… I’m sure they will be deliberating it. I submitted all the documents,” Tulfo said.
“It’s part of life. It’s in their hands. The decision will be in their hands. We just hope on what their decision would be,” Tulfo added.