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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments (CA) has bypassed the ad interim appointments of five officials, including the chiefs of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the Commission on Audit (COA).
Among the months-old appointees of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte that were bypassed on Wednesday, June 1, were:
- Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan
- Comelec Commissioner George Garcia
- Comelec Commissioner Aimee Torrefranca-Neri
- CSC Chairman Karlo Nograles
- COA Chairperson Rizalina Justol
Wednesday was the last day the CA could hold a plenary session before the 18th Congress adjourns sine die on June 3. The CA, however, failed to reach a quorum during Wednesday’s committee hearing.
“Bypassed,” Senator Cynthia Villar, a CA member who chairs the committee on constitutional offices, confirmed to reporters following the hearing.
The decision to bypass the Duterte appointees came after Senate Majority Leader Zubiri disclosed that incoming Marcos Cabinet officials, during a discussion with him, broached the possibility of letting the president-elect make his own picks for the constitutional body positions.
“We cannot please everybody. This is a political body. We know there is a request from the new administration to give that courtesy,” Zubiri said on Wednesday.
Before Wednesday’s hearing, the CA had delayed twice the scheduled committee proceedings involving Duterte’s five ad interim appointees.
On Monday, Zubiri even argued that back in February 2016, then-Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile tried to block the confirmation of five diplomats and two CSC appointees.
“Why not leave that to the incoming president? He is outgoing. Why is he appointing his representatives that will last in their positions for three years, depriving the next president of the right of choosing his own representatives?” Enrile, as quoted by Zubiri, had said back then.
‘Representatives of our country’ not the president
At Wednesday’s CA hearing, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III disputed Zubiri’s argument.
“I disagree with the idea that our ambassadors are personal representatives of the president. They are not. They are representatives of our country,” Pimentel said.
“Since the appointments pending before this committee involve constitutional offices, they are expected to be independent. Who appoints them should not be a big issue as long as the qualifications of independence, integrity, and competence are present in the nominee or appointee,” he added.
Pimentel vouched for the credentials of Justol and Nograles, while Senator Bong Go said he would have voted in favor of the confirmation of the five officials, if a quorum was met.
Duterte named Justol as the new COA chief back in February. In March, he appointed Nograles to the CSC, and Pangarungan, Garcia, and Neri to the Comelec.
When the outgoing president made his appointments, the Congress was already on a break, and the only way the five could have been confirmed at the time was if Duterte called a special session of Congress, but he did not.
In a press briefing, Garcia said he had no regrets after failing to secure the CA’s nod.
“Kung pagbibigyan ako ng pagkakataon maglingkod muli, 10 beses kong pipiliin ang Comelec (If given a chance to serve the government again, I would choose the Comelec 10 times over),” Garcia said.
Pangarungan, in a separate statement, said he accepts the decision of the CA “with a heavy heart.”
“I send my deepest thanks and appreciation to the men and women of the Comelec. It is my honor to have served as your chairman,” he noted.
Marcos can still opt to reappoint the five bypassed officials when he officially assumes the presidency. – Rappler.com