Miriam slams CA ‘plot’ to ensure Soliman’s confirmation

Angela Casauay

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Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago won't get the chance to veto the confirmation of Dinky Soliman as Social Welfare and Development Secretary after the Commission on Appointments scheduled her plenary hearing on the last day of the 1st regular session
ONE STEP CLOSER. The Commission on Appointments endorses the confirmation of Corazon Soliman. Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – After a 4-year delay, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman is one step closer to getting confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA). 

The CA on Wednesday morning, June 4, recommended the nomination of Soliman as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to the Senate plenary after a 30-minute committee hearing. 

Soliman, however, won’t be presented to plenary on Wednesday afternoon, unlike other officials who were endorsed by their respective committees on Wednesday morning. Instead, she will face the plenary on Wednesday, June 11 – the last day of session. 

At plenary, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was expected to block the confirmation of Soliman by invoking a section in the CA rules that would automatically suspend her nomination.

But with the decision to move the plenary hearing for Soliman’s confirmation next week, Santiago would not be able to take that route anymore due to existing rules, said Abono party-list Representative Conrado Estrella III.

“Unfortunately, (Senator Santiago) cannot invoke Section 20 on a sine die plenary session, according to the rules,” Estrella said. 

Ahead of the hearing, Santiago informed Estrella, chairperson of the House committee on labor, employment and social welfare, in a letter that she would attend Wednesday’s afternoon plenary session should Soliman’s nomination be endorsed so she can invoke Section 20 of the CA rules. 

In practice, Section 20, when invoked by any member of the CA, can effectively kill any nomination without the need for any explanation.

But in this case, there’s a catch. 

Section 20 states that any member may move to suspend the nomination of an appointee, “provided that such suspension may be taken up on the next succeeding session of the Commission” and “provided further that this section shall not apply to nominations or appointments taken up by the Commission during the last session prior to an adjournment of Congress.” 

Congress adjourns its 1st regular session on June 11. Lawmakers will only report back for work in July for the State of the Nation Address. 

Estrella said the committee decided to schedule the plenary hearing for Soliman’s confirmation next week to give way to other officials whose confirmation did not have strong opposition.  

“Like what I said earlier, the outcome of this hearing is very unpredictable. Since she has been recommended today, and we thought she might not be, we did not schedule her this afternoon. It is but proper to give way to those who are sure to be confirmed, such as those from the military and the armed forces who are also here (at the Senate),” Estrella said. 

Santiago slams ‘plot’ to deprive her of veto

Shortly after the hearing concluded, Santiago sent a letter to Senate President Franklin Drilon to express her opposition against tackling Soliman’s appointment during the plenary session on June 11. 

The senator slammed the alleged plot by certain administration leaders not to present Soliman this week, depriving her of the power to veto. 

Santiago wrote: “If this plan is true, then I fiercely protest this jugging of dates, intended to deprive me of the veto. The newspapers today all carry news reports about my letter to Rep Estrella, where, out of courtesy, I notified him of my intent to veto Soliman. To re-schedule Soliman for the sold purpose of circumventing the Rules in indubitably unethical and reeks of trapo politics.”

Santiago said she denounces any plan to call Soliman’s name at the next plenary session “as a means of using Sec. 20 to obtain her undeserved and tenebrous confirmation. 

Read her letter below: 

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago denounces the alleged plan to deprive her of the change to veto Secretary Dink…

Meanwhile, Drilon said it would not have made a difference had Soliman been endorsed in plenary today, since her nomination can be re-submitted in the next session even if Section 20 is invoked. 

In a statement sent to media, Drilon said: Under the Rules, Section 20 means that a member of the Commission  can ask for deferment on the vote on a nominee. The motion is not subject to debate, until the session before sine die (June 11). The plenary session acts on committee reports that are submitted today. As of today, there are no committee reports submitted. If it was submitted, then we could have scheduled it for plenary and then Senator Santiago could have invoked Section 20 and consequently, the nomination could have been deferred to the next session. In the next session, again, no member can invoke Section 20. Assuming that the committee submitted the report today and Section 20 indeed could be invoked, the nomination can again be re-submitted on the last session day, June 11, and at the point, Section 20 can no longer be invoked. That is the rule. 

Options for Santiago

Santiago has other options should she insist on blocking Soliman’s appointment, Estrella said. 

“She can talk to her senator colleagues. If she can muster a majority, then she can still do something about it. That’s the ultimate solution that I can see,” Estrella said. 

Soliman, for her part, said she respects Santiago’s constitutional mandate to scrutinize her appointment based on the principle of checks and balances. 

Asked for her message to Santiago, Soliman said: “Sana ho gumaling na siya.” (I hope she gets better.) 

Santiago is presently on a medical leave. Due to her illness, she earlier decided to step down as judge of the International Criminal Court.

Since 2011, Santiago has been blocking Soliman’s confirmation, slamming the secretary’s shifting loyalties between two presidents and the secretary’s criticism of Santiago as pro-Estrada. 

Soliman also held the same position under the Arroyo administration but resigned in the aftermath of allegations on electoral fraud against the former president. 

In her opening speech before the committee, Soliman said her appointment as Social Welfare and Development Secretary under the Aquino administration will provide a “strong legitimacy” to her work. – Rappler.com

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