January 20, 2018, 4:52 pm
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Judy and the CA

POWERFUL is an adjective that newspaper reporters conveniently use to describe the Commission on Appointments (CA), tasked with vetting the President’s top appointments in the Cabinet, the Armed Forces, and the foreign service.

The CA showed Tuesday that indeed it was powerful, with its third and final rejection of the appointment of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

An activist all her life, the UP professor who personally suffered first-degree torture under the Marcos martial law regime, Taguiwalo joined President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet with outstanding credentials that can stand on their own, overshadowing the fact that she had been endorsed by the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) which was then holding peace negotiations with the government.

After the peace negotiations were scrapped, the participants from the Left were ordered rearrested.

Malacañang, Cabinet members including the presidential spokesman, many lawmakers from the majority coalition, the minority and opposition, aside from party-list representatives, people’s organizations, media, Marawi City officials and evacuees, DSWD employees, etc. were one in saying that Taguiwalo served the department and its clientele, mostly poor and disadvantaged Filipinos, with efficiency, dedication, and honesty.

Still, Taguiwalo failed to run the CA gauntlet a third and final time, and the next day, she found herself being praised by Malacañang while packing her things to start a temporary phase of her life as jobless.

She herself knew why she failed to get the nod of the CA, many of whose members are friends and allies of Duterte. Judy’s fate was sealed by her past connections with the NDF, her rejection of the tax reform package bill now in the Senate, and most especially her memorandum to the DSWD not to honor any recommendations from congressmen and other officials about the cash dole-out program.

The lawmakers’ questions to her revealed their final vote. It is just interesting that the opposition or minority bloc in the Senate’s CA delegation rooted for Taguiwalo. Probably the whole House of Representatives panel ditched her, save for Manila Rep. Rosenda Ann Ocampo who said she backed Taguiwalo.

Unlike Ocampo, Rep. Joel Almario said he had to follow the CA rule that he could not reveal his vote, or he will lose his CA membership. Yes, there is such a rule. This further reinforces the power that the CA wields. Individual members can vote secretly, then take up the reverse position in public statements and in plenary without public accountability save for one’s conscience, if he or she has any.

Thus, Taguiwalo went the way of another Cabinet member, former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, who stepped on the toes of powerful mining interests.

Taguiwalo and Lopez just cannot play political charades with the trapos, so they had to return to the saner world of private life.
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