After the confirmation of two career executives and five ambassadors fell through at the Commission on Appointments the other day on the mere objection of one senator, Senate President Franklin Drilon has vowed to work on amending a CA rule that allows the arbitrary blocking of appointees.
Speaking at a forum at the Senate, Drilon yesterday aired his exasperation at the move of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to block the confirmation of Commission on Audit Commissioner Isabel Dasalla-Agito and Civil Service Commission Commissioner Nieves Osorio; as well as ambassadors Charles Jose, Denis Lepatan, Celia Anna Feria, Uriel Norman Garibay and Lilybeth Deapera for no valid reason he can think of.
“Yesterday was not a very pleasant way of closing our session. Senator Enrile invoked Section 20 and as a result, the confirmation of a number of career officials, both in the constitutional offices and the Department of Foreign Affairs, were deferred and derailed,” Drilon said.
Section 20 of the CA’s rules states that “any member may move for the suspension of action by the commission on any nomination or appointment favorably recommended by a standing committee and the chairman shall suspend the consideration of nomination or appointment.”
That particular section also states that “such suspension may be taken up on the next succeeding session of the commission; provided, further, that this section shall not apply to nominations or appointments taken up by the commission during the last session prior to a sine die adjournment of Congress.”
Whenever the rule is invoked by a member of the CA, no questions are asked and no reason has to be given by the member.
“I have directed the secretary of the Commission on Appointments to conduct a review of Section 20 of our rules which allows a member to move for a deferment of nomination for no reason at all as you saw yesterday,” Drilon said.
“I have asked the secretary to study how we can amend that rules so that Section 20 cannot be used arbitrarily in order that we can shield career government officials from politics,” he added.
Drilon said that he was saddened by what happened because there was “no question on the qualifications of the career people to be confirmed to the posts that they were nominated for.”
He lamented that the case of the ambassadors was even more critical because they would not be able to assume their respective posts overseas.
Enrile defended his invocation of Section 20, which he pointed out has been in place “since the beginning of Congress, since the time of (former President Manuel) Quezon.”
He explained that the next president should name his own ambassadors because they will represent him overseas.
Drilon said that the next president could always just recall the ambassadors if he desires, but Enrile said that this cannot be done without cause.
“That (Section 20) is the weapon of the opposition against the irresponsibility of the ruling clique. Why are you going to destroy that power of the opposition? In order to control the country? No way,” Enrile said.
“Let them change the rule but that is a long standing tradition in the country. They want to change things for their convenience? Let them. They will suffer in the end. They won’t always be in the majority,” he added.
Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who also belongs to the minority bloc, echoed the sentiments of Enrile.
“It’s been there for ages. It’s the protection of the minority. We should not touch it,” Sotto said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, on the other hand, said that he is keeping an open mind on the proposed reforms.
“I can see that the rules seem designed to prevent a possible tyranny of the majority scenario. Whereas on the other hand, it may sometimes work against some promotions or appointments,” Angara said.
“Any study has to consider both sides, pros and cons, and seek to strike the appropriate balance,” he added.
Malacañang yesterday expressed hope that the decision of the powerful bicameral Commission on Appointments to defer the confirmation of several of President Aquino’s appointees is nothing personal on the part of legislators.
“We note that the rules of the CA allow its members to exercise certain prerogatives in connection with the confirmation of presidential appointees,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. – With Delon Porcalla