EDITORIAL - A weakened process
(The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2014 - 12:00am

Four years after assuming their posts, three Cabinet members were finally confirmed last week by the Commission on Appointments. Rather than an affirmation of presidential choices, it looked like the CA under the 16th Congress simply gave its nod out of sheer exhaustion in its battle with the appointing power.

The issue raises questions on the reason for the existence of the CA. If the president can simply keep re-appointing officials bypassed by the CA, why bother with the confirmation process, and spend tax money to maintain the commission?

When the chief executive is trusted to pick the best and brightest for his or her official family, the function of the CA becomes largely ministerial. Lawmakers, however, have also injected personal and partisan considerations into the confirmation process, arguing that they must be able to work with officials in the executive branch.

Corazon Aquino, during her presidency, bowed to such considerations and did not push for her nominees when bypassed several times by the CA. Her son, a former lawmaker, has followed the lead not of his mother but of her successors, issuing bypassed officials new appointments repeatedly, from the 15th Congress to the current one.

Last week Secretaries Leila de Lima of justice, Corazon Soliman of social welfare and development, and Ramon Paje of environment and natural resources finally hurdled the CA. Heidi Mendoza also got her confirmation as commissioner, two years after her appointment to the Commission on Audit.

Lawmakers are now proposing limits on the number of times CA members can object to an appointment and defer the confirmation of a nominee. When the limit is reached, the nomination can be brought before the plenary for confirmation or rejection. The new rules will also limit the number of times a nominee can be re-appointed.

While lawmakers are drawing up new rules on the confirmation process, measures must also be implemented to discourage the corruption that has stained the CA. In recent years, scandals have erupted over CA members allegedly demanding sweetheart deals with the agency headed by the official facing confirmation. CA members have also been accused of demanding outright cash in exchange for confirmation, or the appointment of their friends or relatives to the agency of the official seeking the commission’s nod.

Such scandals erode the credibility of the CA in carrying out its task. In a democracy, the confirmation system is a component of the checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches. The system must not be weakened by partisan considerations.


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