MANILA, Philippines – Despite his earlier clarification of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “lobby money talks” comment in the wake of Gina Lopez’s rejection as Environment secretary, Malacanang spokesman Ernesto Abella had to repeat on Wednesday his explanation that the chief executive did not mean money changed hands.
“The President reiterates that he does not doubt the integrity of the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Abella said in a statement.
He also said that because the issue of Lopez’s appointment was an “impassioned” one that had “quickly polarized supporters between pro-environment and pro-mining,” people lost sight of “the position of the Duterte administration, which is pro- environment and pro-responsible mining.”
Abella also claimed that “the way the issues were framed seemed to imply a ‘lobby’ – or an activity of a group (or groups) representing certain interests seeking to influence an outcome.”
“Eh you know how it is. This is a democracy and lobby money talks,” Duterte said after the CA turned down Lopez’s appointment. He has since appointed former military chief Roy Cimatu to the environment post.
HERE’S THAT PART OF DUTERTE’S SPEECH ON MAY 4 WHERE HE SAID ‘LOBBY MONEY TALKS’:
Duterte’s comment drew objections from members of the Commission on Appointments, among them Senator Panfilo Lacson, who called his words “unfortunate, if not inappropriate and uncalled for … 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.”
Lacson also hinted Duterte himself may have backed Lopez’s rejection, saying the chief executive’s “staunchest allies in both houses of Congress will not cast their votes without first seeking his guidance.”
Another CA member, Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato, urged Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who chairs the panel, to investigate Duterte’s claim because “inaction will be a disservice to our people and to our country.”
On Tuesday, Abella said Duterte “corrected himself, I mean he clarified” during Monday night’s Cabinet meeting that “when he said lobby, it’s not necessarily (about) money” and that “people automatically assumed that there was an exchange of money but lobby is a legal thing that you can exercise in order to persuade.”
On Wednesday, the Malacanang spokesman reiterated that, “while the President did refer to a ‘lobby,’ he did not mean bribery, which is also a negative meaning of the word.”
Duterte, he stressed, did not mean that “members of the Commission on Appointments were financially persuaded to take a position on Ms. Lopez’s appointment” and “remains faithful to his covenant of seeking justice for the wronged and the environment. He trusts that all branches of government share the same commitment.”