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Lawmakers bypass Duterte appointees for lack of quorum

SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE/ COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENTS

LAWMAKERS on Wednesday bypassed five officials appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte for lack of quorum.

Only five members of the Commission on Appointments physically attended the confirmation hearing, while three were online.

“There being no quorum, the meeting of the committee on constitutional commissions and offices is hereby adjourned,” said Senator Cynthia A. Villar, who headed the session.

The body was supposed to hear the appointments of Election Chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan, Election Commissioners George Erwin M. Garcia and Aimee S. Torrefranca-Neri, Commission on Audit (CoA) Chairman Rizalina Noval Justol and Civil Service Commission Chairman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles. 

Congress is set to adjourn on June 3, which means incoming President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. will have to appoint a new set of officials.

“We cannot please everybody,” Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri said in a statement. “This is a political body. We know there is a request from the new administration to give that courtesy.”

Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go, a known Duterte ally, said he would have voted for the appointees.

“The independence of these constitutional commissions is one of the major pillars of our robust democracy,” he said. “It is necessary that we safeguard such independence at all times.”

Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said senators agree that the next government should be the one to appoint these officials.

“There is a proper time that can be set aside to sift through the appointments on the part of Congress,” she told a news briefing. “There is no need to hurry.”

Mr. Zubiri on Tuesday said the Commission on Appointments should wait for Mr. Marcos’ own appointments instead of confirming the heads of the several independent bodies.

He noted that once they approve their appointments, Mr. Marcos could no longer appoint his own set of officials because they have a seven-year term.

“I’m just comforted by the fact that the four commissioners left behind are capable individuals,” Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia, one of those who got bypassed, told a separate news briefing.

Meanwhile, a public think tank urged Mr. Marcos to declare a vacancy in more than 1,000 last-minute appointments made by his predecessor.

In a statement, InfraWatch PH said commissioners with fixed terms and civil service officers appointed close to the appointment ban during the election period “effectively ties the hand of the new administration from determining its policy agenda in various departments and commissions.”

“With the new government rejecting tax proposals from the outgoing economic team, it is clear that the new president seeks to undertake a clean sweep of current policy,” convenor Terry L. Ridon, a former congressman, said in a statement. “This requires a clean sweep of existing high-level personnel in various government agencies.”

The think tank noted that in March Mr. Duterte appointed more than 1,000 people to various executive agencies and government corporations.

These include appointments to constitutional offices, commissions with fixed terms and permanent appointments of civil service officials, it said.

InfraWatch PH said the new government should also look into the appointment of new civil service officials who joined the government during Mr. Duterte’s rule, which might have violated appointment rules. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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