MANILA, Philippines – Why was Judy Taguiwalo's appointment as social welfare secretary rejected by lawmakers?
President Rodrigo Duterte thinks one major reason may be "reports" that Taguiwalo channeled government funds or resources to the New People's Army (NPA).
He voiced this suspicion on Monday, August 28, during a press conference in Pampanga.
"She was suspected by, hindi naman lahat, but people na the bulk of the money went to, ditong Pantawid, naibigay sa mga NPA," said Duterte.
(She was suspected, not by all, [by some] people, that the bulk of the money for the Pantawid was given to the NPA.)
He was referring to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), DSWD's conditional cash transfer program which, in 2017, received a budget of around P55 billion.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which nominated Taguiwalo to the DSWD top post.
The relationship between the CPP and the Duterte government looked promising until peace talks broke down in July after an encounter with the NPA wounded his own security personnel.
One possible basis for the reports is his previous "guidance" to Taguiwalo and even to the military not to be too strict when distributing assistance to poor beneficiaries.
"Pagka pagkain, huwag mo nang pigilan ‘yan. Kung ang pera na binibigay ni Taguiwalo, para na rin sa mga mahirap, may mga hirap na NPA, may mga gutom rin na hindi NPA, mas marami kaysa NPA. Sabi ko, 'Okay lang ako,'" said Duterte.
(If it's food, don't stop them. The money given to Taguiwalo is for the poor, there are NPAs who are poor, there are also hungry people who are not NPA, who number more than the NPAs. I said, "I'm okay with it.")
NPA members may have taken advantage of DSWD assistance and resources, especially given orders from CPP leaders like Jose Maria Sison to intensify their attacks against government, following Duterte's martial law declaration over Mindanao.
"Kaso lang, baka ‘yung pera, sabi nga ng – baka naibili ng mga bala o armas, (But the money may have been used to buy bullets and arms) because of the pronouncement of Sison that they are expanding, that they are recruiting," said the President.
Does Duterte blame Taguiwalo for resources supposedly reaching NPA rebels? He said he left it to others to "pass judgment", hence Taguiwalo's rejection.
"I said, 'I do not need it.' I know, they are from the Left, that's why I got them. But I said, I leave it to the others to pass judgment," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The powerful Commission on Appointments gave no clear explanation why Taguiwalo's appointment was rejected.
Taguiwalo herself believes her stance against the discretionary funds and the tax reform bill caused her rejection.
Taguiwalo told Rappler she requested for a meeting with Duterte the night before her ill-fated CA hearing to tell the President about reports of corruption in DSWD. Duterte declined to meet with her. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.