Advise & Consent

"When accountability and transparency are bartered for the convenience of partisan politics, it does not strengthen institutions."

The mandated task of the Commission on Appointment (CA) is to render advice and consent and not abuse and dissent to appointments made by the president. Advise and consent serve to moderate the power of one branch of government by requiring the concurrence of another branch for selected actions.

The CA is a body created by the Constitution and is tasked with confirming the appointments made by the president.  It is composed of 25 members from the two chambers and chaired by the Senate President.  The chairman votes to break a tie.  To be confirmed or bypassed, a secretary designate would need a majority vote of 13.

Article VII, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution reads: “"The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, or officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him in this Constitution. He shall also appoint all other officers of the Government whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by law, and those whom he may be authorized by law to appoint. The Congress may, by law, vest the appointment of other officers lower in rank in the President alone, in the courts, or in the heads of departments, agencies, commissions, or boards.” Clearly there is no intent of rejection based on a 3 Strike Rule because that undermines the power of the president to appoint.

It used to be (8th-16th Congress) the albatross was Section 20 of its Rules.  Any member can invoke it at the proper time and viola, the secretary-designate is bypassed.  It was either the secretary-designate is confirmed or bypassed.  The president is not limited in his appointing powers. He can re-appoint and/or issue ad-interim appointments.  In order to curve the power of a single member in relation to Section 20, amendment to limit the use of the said section was made as “section shall not apply to nominations or appointments taken up by the Commission during the last session prior to a sine die adjournment of Congress."

Two amendments made in the 17th Congress, first regular session, were on the Secret Voting (Section 23) and the 3 Strike Rule (Section 25).  Changes in the Rules of the Commission need to be published and this is where the problem lies in relation to those appointees who submitted their complete documents after the adoption of the amendments on 7 March 2017.  When is the reckoning date for the 3 Strike Rule?  When were the amendments published?

It also used to be that the PLLO’s main task is to ensure that appointees submit their documents on time, appointees are trained to handle themselves during CA hearings and shepherding appointees through the confirmation process was an added function.  The PLLO ensures that the votes are there or a jujitsu strategy is considered (deferment) to prevent a bypassed vote.

Clearly the constitution does not grant the Commission on Appointment the power to reject appointments based on a 3 Strike Rule.  That is a limitation to the right and prerogative of the president to form and select the members of his official family. The CA shall give its consent or without it, the appointee is bypassed.  Rejection based on a 3 Strike Rule is therefore contrary to the intent of the Constitution.  The CA has to render a majority decision based on the fitness of the appointee and not because after three hearings there is no breakthrough.  There should be no limit to the presidential power of appointment.  Who the president chooses to be part of his cabinet and the frequency by which he makes the same appointment are his alone.

Yasay was bypassed because of a citizenship issue.  Lopez was “rejected” because of the 3 Strike Rule and the same sword was used for Taguiwalo. And because of the secret voting adopted, no one knows why Lopez and Taguiwalo were “rejected”.  Hence, the speculations and the witch hunting. 

When accountability and transparency are bartered for the convenience of partisan politics, it does not strengthen institutions.  When presidents do not bother fighting for his cabinet and an appointee is on his/her own self to navigate the CA, we suffer because we set free a gem of a worker in a Taguiwalo.  It appears therefore that integrity, credibility and love for country are not the metrics the CA members are looking into.  We just loss change in favor of that 3 Strike Rule.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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