MANILA (Updated 4:43pm) – Despite last-minute lobbying by activist lawmakers and organizations for her confirmation, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo was rejected with finality by the Commission on Appointments before which she appeared for the third and last time on Wednesday.
Thirteen members of the bicameral congressional body voted to reject Taguiwalo, who nonetheless drew praise from some key members of the Senate. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto expressed regret she could not “hurdle the CA vote” but said he was supporting her.
The voting was done in an executive session, and by secret ballot.
The so-called three-strike rule by the CA states that any presidential appointee bypassed three times by the body faces the prospect of rejection.
Taguiwalo is one of the leftists President Rodrigo Duterte named to his Cabinet, though one of her staunch supporters, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, said she should not be deemed a “token leftist” in the administration but a symbol of a working democracy. Her qualifications, more than her ideology, made her fit for the Cabinet, he said in a speech he never got to deliver, but shared with media.
She is the third member of the Cabinet to be rejected by the CA, the first two being Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay and Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
Palace saddened, still looking for replacement
Malacañang Palace expressed sadness over the rejection. Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella isued this statement: “We are saddened by the Commission on Appointments’ rejection of Secretary Judy Taguiwalo. Secretary Taguiwalo had served the Duterte administration with passion, profession and integrity. She made an impact in the lives of many Filipinos in her tenure as DSWD Secretary.”
According to Abella, “The President is now looking and studying for a possible replacement.”
Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate said: “The Duterte administration will be losing a very competent and dedicated DSWD Secretary with this rejection, and the majority of the people catered to by the DSWD would be the ones to suffer.”
He added, speaking in Filipino: “If competence and integrity were the only criteria for CA confirmation, Sec. Judy should have been confirmed a long time ago. But it seems some members have a different agenda. The poor and ordinary citizens are the losers here; while those greedy for pork are rejoicing.”
Kabayan partylist Rep. Harry Roque, for his part, described Taguiwalo’s CA rejection as “such a loss for the country. She’s among the most honest, hard working and competent member of the Cabinet.”
For Anakpawis partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao, the rejection Taguiwalo “is a blatant proof that pro-reform officials will not be tolerated by institutions of traditional politics.”
Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Elago warned that Taguiwalo’s removal from the Cabinet “will signify the return of the DSWD’s nature to fuel the neoliberal framework, through dole-outs and programs funded from foreign aid and debt.”
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat lamented that, “unti-unting nawawala ang mga progresibo, matapang at kababaihan sa Duterte administration [the progressives, courageous and women leaders are slowly losing their place in the Duterte administration].”
It seems, he said, that Taguiwalo’s “only fault was not bending to the dictates of legislators in the use of agency funds.”
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, one of those who went on record as giving Taguiwalo their vote, said he shared a stint with Taguiwalo as members of the University of the Philippines Board of Regents from 2010 till 2013.
“I saw her competence, integrity and above all, her heart for the poor,” Angara said, in Filipino.
“That is her single most important qualification to sit as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). I hope her successor will have the same qualities. At any rate, the DSWD’s loss is UP’s gain because she will go back to teaching there, I’m sure.”
The Liberal Party contingent in the Senate voted for Taguiwalo. The party said in a statement: “The Duterte administration lost a committed Cabinet official with the rejection of Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to the DSWD portfolio.
“In the 14 months that Secretary Taguiwalo was at the helm of the DSWD, we have seen her continue the Aquino administration’s successful Conditional Cash Transfer program which benefited 4.4 million Filipino families.
“Echoing the Liberal Party position and contrary to the pronouncements of the President and the actions of his allies in Congress, she has also voiced her opposition to lowering the age of criminal liability of minors.
“It is ironic that the allies of the administration rejected the President’s appointee.”
The LP Senate contingent is composed of Senators Frank Drilon, Ralph Recto, Bam Aquino and Kiko Pangilinan.
For his part, Renato M. Reyes, Jr. BAYAN Secretary General, said that with CA’s rejection of Taguiwalo, “vested interests and bureaucrat capitalism one again triumph over good governance, pro-people policies and genuine service.”
He added: “This one is on Duterte as it is on the CA. The rejection exposes the utter bankruptcy of the current ruling system and the reactionary character of the Duterte regime. The President could have asked his allies in Congress to confirm Judy yet he again chose to “bend the knee” to pork barrel lawmakers, neoliberal economic managers and the militarists in his cabinet. He chose business-as-usual, reactionary politics over genuine change.”
Lawmakers made earlier pitch, but….
Earlier, several lawmakers and activist groups pitched for her confirmation.
“Isang malaking kawalan para sa pamahalaan at, higit sa lahat, sa mamamayan kung mawawala ang isang tulad ni Secretary Judy Taguiwalo sa DSWD (It will be a great loss for the government and, most of all, the people if someone like Secretary Judy Taguiwalo leaves the Department of Social Welfare and Development),” Gabriela party-list Representative Emmi De Jesus said.
De Jesus said the CA has no reason to reject Taguiwalo, who she pointed out has not been tainted by corruption as she fulfills her duties.
But the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan listed those it said wish to see Taguiwalo out of the DSWD:
- Lawmakers who want to get their hands on DSWD funds thus perpetuating the corruption-tainted pork barrel system.
- Neoliberal economic managers at odds with the left’s pro-people positions in the Cabinet.
- Militarists who think the DSWD is giving too much help to the marginalized sectors like the lumad, urban poor and others who are fighting for change.
- Enemies of peace who think that the peace talks are a waste of time and giving cabinet positions to leftists is a bad idea.
At the same time, Bayan said the matter of Taguiwalo’s confirmation or rejection was about Duterte “standing up for what’s right.”
“Will he stand up to the pork barrel lawmakers, neoliberal economic managers and pro-US militarists who want Judy out of the DSWD? Will he ask his allies in Congress to #ConfirmJudy? Or will he ‘bend the knee’ yet again to reactionary interests like he did during Gina’s confirmation?” Bayan said, the latter a reference to former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who the CA rejected.
Aside from Taguiwalo, the CA has yet to act on the confirmation of another leftist, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, a former Armed Forces chief who Dutete appointed three months ago Lopez’s rejection.
WATCH NEWS5’S VIDEO REPORT: