MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed disappointment over the Commission on Appointment (CA)’s decision against the confirmation of his appointment of Gina Lopez as Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary.
“Sayang si Gina. I really like her passion,” Duterte said in a speech during the opening ceremony of the 27th Philippine Orthopedic Association Mid-Year Convention in Davao City on Thursday.
Duterte remembered rooting for Lopez during a gathering in Malacanang even though the purpose of the assembly was not about the DENR chief or the pending confirmation hearing on her appointment.
“I remember talking about her in one of ganitong gathering. It was not about the purpose for which they were really gathered in Malacañang, but I made a pinch-hit for her.”
The President insinuated that money could have had something to do with the non-confirmation of Lopez’s appointment.
“Eh you know how it is. This is a democracy and lobby money talks,” said Duterte.
Reckless slur on lawmakers, CA: Lacson
The comment drew a quick reaction from Sen. Panfilo Lacson. He said Friday Duterte’s insinuation that lobby money from big business may have influenced the vote in the CA is a reckless indictment of an independent body and even of his own allies.
Lacson, one of the 16 who voted against Lopez whom he called “passionate” about her environmental causes but falling far short in terms of qualifications and in a willingness to follow the law, reacted to Duterte’s comment regretting Lopez’s failure to get the CA nod. Duterte attributed it to “lobby talks,” an insinuation that money may have come from the mining industry, which had opposed Lopez’s confirmation for her allegedly arbitrary impositions outside the Mining Act.
In a statement Friday, Lacson said: “With certainty, the President’s ‘money lobby talks’ comment does not apply to me and I have already cited my reasons for rejecting Ms Lopez.”
Nevertheless, added Lacson, “I think it is unfortunate if not inappropriate and uncalled for. It is a sweeping assault not only on the integrity of the members of the CA who voted for rejection but the CA itself, being an independent constitutional body.
“I am almost sure, those members who are his staunchest allies in both houses of Congress, will not cast their votes without first seeking his guidance. Just to be clear, I am not referring to myself in this regard.”
Hands are tied
Nevertheless, the President said his hands were tied.
“I do not control everything. I am the head of the executive department…Congress is controlled by the Senate President and the Speaker…[The] Supreme Court is a collegial body but the affairs are administered by the court administrator,” he said.
“May mga tao ako na gusto ko, pero [There are people I like but] I share powers. And that is the process of checks and balances,” added Duterte.
In March, the chief executive said he would rather follow Lopez than earn P70 billion from the mining industry if irresponsible mining activities continue and worsen environmental destruction.
“If you have something in mind about Gina Lopez, kindly rethink and look at her passion,” he said, apparently addressing CA members.
Duterte told irresponsible miners that if they continue destroying the environment, he would rather support Lopez and look for another industry as source of revenue.
“The problem is nakita ko ‘yong kalbo [The problem is I saw the bald mountains] and until now, malalim na ‘yang binutas ninyo d’yan [and until now, you have dug deep there] because it’s an open pit. Pagka ganoon [In that case], I have to support Lopez and I cannot help you,” he told miners.
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