Lawmakers confirm Cayetano as foreign secretary

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday afternoon, May 17, gave their consent for President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint Senator Alan Peter Cayetano as secretary of foreign affairs. 

"The Commission hereby gives its consent to the appointment of Senator Alan Peter 'Compañero' S. Cayetano as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs," said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who chairs the CA.

Based on the Constitution, this is the second in 4 steps before Cayetano assumes his post as DFA chief. This is the set-up because Cayetano's nomination was made while Congress was in session. 

The first of 4 steps was the nomination of Cayetano, which Duterte already did. 

The second step is to have the CA give its consent to Cayetano’s appointment. The third is for Duterte to actually appoint Cayetano, and the fourth is for Cayetano to accept his appointment and eventually take his oath. 

In an interview with reporters, Pimentel clarified that Cayetano "is still a senator" as of around 3 pm on Wednesday.

"When we give our consent, that means we are a consenting to his appointment. That's our go-signal to the President to go ahead and appoint him," Pimentel explained.

"So he's still a senator as far as we're concerned. If he wants to attend our session this afternoon, he's still qualified and allowed, and he's welcome," he added. 

'Shortest confirmation hearing'

This comes after Cayetano hurdled his confirmation hearing in just 3 minutes on Wednesday morning.

This is because lawmakers chose not to grill their colleague on his nomination as Philippine foreign secretary.

"I now have the distinction or the privilege of presiding over the shortest confirmation hearing of a Cabinet secretary," CA foreign affairs committee chair Senator Panfilo Lacson said after Cayetano passed the committee level.

Cayetano's confirmation hearing began at exactly 9 am on Wednesday. 

By 9:03 am, the Senator Ambrosio Padilla Room of the Philippine Senate was already erupting in applause, as Lacson congratulated the man he called "Secretary Cayetano."

Lawmakers did not ask a single question of Cayetano, in a body that is supposed to screen the President's nominees as part of checks and balances. (READ: Confirmation limbo: Long but futile process?

It was in stark contrast to the confirmation hearings of former Philippine foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, whom lawmakers grilled and eventually rejected on March 8 for lying about his US citizenship. 

INCOMING DFA CHIEF. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano grants an interview with reporters on May 17, 2017, after he hurdled his confirmation hearing as DFA chief for only 3 minutes. Photo by Lito Boras/Rappler

INCOMING DFA CHIEF. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano grants an interview with reporters on May 17, 2017, after he hurdled his confirmation hearing as DFA chief for only 3 minutes.

Photo by Lito Boras/Rappler

Lacson and Isabela 1st District Representative Rodolfo Albano III joked that they were willing to recommend Cayetano's confirmation even without him taking his seat at the hearing. 

"I move to recommend to the plenary the confirmation of the nomination of Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, even without him sitting there," Albano said, as the audience laughed and applauded.

Cayetano was not yet seated when Albano said this.

As Cayetano was taking his seat, Lacson said: "There is a motion to recommend to the plenary the confirmation of the nomination of Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Is there any objection? Hearing none, congratulations, Secretary Cayetano." 

Cayetano: 'The Lord has a plan'

In response, Cayetano said he prepared an opening statement, but recalled an insight he always tells his brothers and basketball teammates: "'Pag umoo na, 'wag ka nang humirit pa, baka humindi pa later on e (Once they already say yes, do not say anything anymore because they might say no later on)."

Cayetano then proceeded to read his opening statement, which started with a Bible verse from the book of Jeremiah: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

"I firmly believe that that the Lord has a plan for all of us," said Cayetano, who is fond of quoting Bible verses.

Cayetano then recounted his career in public service since 1992, from the time he was councilor of Taguig to the time he became a second-term senator.

He also pointed out that he has chaired the Senate foreign relations committee and has accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte "in every foreign trip" he has made as chief executive. (READ: Incoming DFA chief rejects 'microphone diplomacy')

Cayetano was Duterte's defeated running mate in the 2016 elections Duterte had promised to appoint Cayetano to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after the one-year ban on appointing losing candidates to government posts – even when Yasay was not yet rejected by the CA.

Saying much needs to be done at the DFA, Cayetano thanked the CA members for allowing him to quickly pass the committee level on Wednesday.

Addressing the CA members, Cayetano said, "You have helped our President and helped our country regardless of your own political beliefs, and thank you for also giving me the honor of breezing through the Commission on Appointments." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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