The Commission on Appointments under the Duterte administration: Championing Checks and Balances or Protecting Personal Interests?
Two important institutions are once again in a deadlock following the pending appointment of Cabinet members of the Duterte administration. The Commission on Appointments (CA), a constitutional body composed of thirteen (13) Senators and twelve (12) Congressmen/women, held confirmation hearings last Wednesday, 3 May, on the appointment of Sec. Gina Lopez as DENR Secretary and Sec. Judy Taguiwalo as DSWD Secretary. These two personalities have figured prominently and have gained the support of the general public for the good work they have done in their respective departments.
However, despite the public’s solid support, their appointments have been previously by-passed by the CA. The events that transpired in their respective confirmation hearings on 3 May further show they do not command the respect or even enjoy the confidence of some of the members of the CA.
The objective of establishing the Commission on Appointments, as an independent body under the 1987 Constitution, is clear- to facilitate checks and balances in government and prevent any perceived abuse, if any, by the appointing authority. However, while these may be the intended purposes of the CA, a lot of observers now feel today that the CA is slowly becoming a major stumbling block in the pursuit of reform initiatives by the Duterte administration. It is important to note that on October 2016, during the previous round of confirmations, about fifteen (15) members of the Cabinet failed to get the nod of CA, including Sec. Lopez and Sec. Taguiwalo. It is even more ironic that nineteen (19) out of the 25-person CA are members of the majority bloc. These members of the majority bloc have repeatedly professed their support for the President’s plans but their actuations in the CA do not support such claims.
The above-mentioned facts clearly reveal two things: (1) The President's stronghold among his allies in the Senate and in the House seems to be loose and there is a need to strengthen and solidify his support base in both chambers and; (2) The personal interests (good or bad) of each of the CA members rose above their political affiliations during the conduct of CA hearings and in the voting for confirmation.
It now appears that the realization of the President's Reform Agenda is being stymied by the seeming lack of a solid support base in the Senate and House of Representatives. One of its most popular Secretaries has been denied of an appointment while the other is being seriously questioned for her ideological connections with the CPP-NPA.
This apparent deadlock in terms of implementing the President’s vision for the country is denying us of a clear opportunity at reform on many levels of governance. At the end of the day, there is no greater loser here other than the Filipino people.