CA to bypass DSWD chief Erwin Tulfo over citizenship issue, libel conviction

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:32 p.m.) — Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo will be bypassed by the Commission on Appointments for the second time over issues on his citizenship and his libel conviction, Senate President Migz Zubiri said Monday.

Zubiri, who also heads the powerful constitutional body, told reporters that Tulfo has yet to provide sufficient proof that he has renounced his US citizenship, which he admitted to have acquired in the late 1980s and only renounced early 2022.

“We’re according Secretary Tulfo with more leeway,” Zubiri said as he recalled a similar issue with former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. “If he could just give us documentary proof, a certification that he’s no longer an American citizen.”

In a phone call with reporters, Tulfo said he is ready with documents related to his US citizenship from the US immigration and embassy.

Another obstacle preventing Tulfo from being confirmed is his libel conviction from the year 2000, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2008. 

Zubiri said they would be inviting sitting and former justices to weigh in on Tulfo’s conviction, which the Senate President characterized as a crime involving moral turpitude.

“Not on my watch that we wouldn’t study this carefully. We would study the legal implications of this,” Zubiri said.

While resisting to comment, Tulfo said his case is different as he is an appointed official and not elected.

Despite the hurdles he faces, Tulfo says he is confident that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will reappoint him to his position once the CA bypasses him.

"His last instruction to me is continue doing what I'm supposed to do," Tulfo said.

For Zubiri, he admitted that he likes Tulfo and feels regret if he would not be confirmed, but he said that they have to perform their mandate as checks on executive power.

“We have to perform our constitutionally given mandate to make sure we vet out the members of the Cabinet that have no legal impediments,” Zubiri said.

But it is not all over for Tulfo, as Zubiri said things may still turn around for him should legal luminaries give favorable opinions on his situation.

“It’s not over yet, we still have hearings, and hopefully we’ll be able to fix all these legal impediments,” Zubiri said.

But should these impediments not be ironed out when Congress resumes work after the Christmas break and the CA composed of lawmakers bypass Tulfo’s appointment for the third time, the body would have to vote whether to approve or reject his designation.

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