Good cop, bad cop
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2017 - 12:00am

The continuing drama over the confirmation of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez took yet another dramatic twist. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte revealed last Monday alleged funding by rogue miners to destabilize his administration in retaliation to the closure and suspension orders of Lopez on mining permits and contracts issued by the DENR.

President Duterte, however, reiterated his complete trust and support to the embattled DENR Secretary whose confirmation was bypassed anew by the Commission on Appointments (CA) during its plenary session before they adjourned last Wednesday. The 25-man bicameral body, chaired by Senate president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, will resume sessions after the Lenten break of lawmakers in both chambers of the 17th Congress.

It was a technical bypass for Lopez along with three fellow Duterte Cabinet members, namely left-leaning Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial. The CA though approved overwhelmingly the appointment of Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

President Duterte will have no choice but to issue again ad interim appointments to the four bypassed Cabinet officials as “acting” Secretary in their respective Departments.

Of the 22 Duterte Cabinet members, the four of them have yet to hurdle the CA. And all four have been by-passed by the CA three times already, including this latest one. Fortunately though for the four bypassed Cabinet officials, they are not yet covered though by the new three-strike rule of the CA.

Under this new rule, the CA will no longer accept nor entertain the nomination of any presidential appointee if bypassed by the body for the third time. The presidential appointee is deemed rejected by the CA if bypassed three times.

 The new rules and regulations were adopted by the CA and were published yesterday at The STAR. It shall take effect 15 days after its publication in two newspapers of general circulation. The new rules and regulations would apply prospectively, including these four Duterte Cabinet officials when CA resumes their confirmation hearings in May.

But for now, the foul-mouthed President promised anew his administration will never bow down to pressure groups for him to remove Lopez as DENR Secretary. In fact, the President threw caution to the winds in saying the government would rather forego the estimated P70 billion worth of mining revenues than abandon the crusade of the DENR Secretary for responsible mining.

Without mincing any words, the tough-talking President Duterte accused some of those in the mining industry have reportedly been “funding the opposite side.” Without accusing any particular people or organizations, the former Davao City Mayor merely pointed to apparent well coordinated efforts to destabilize his leadership of the country.

Police and military authorities, however, were apparently blindsided about the latest public disclosure of President Duterte on alleged brewing destabilization plots. The President believes the people behind the alleged destabilization plots were “funded” by certain mining interest groups that have purportedly joined forces with drug lords affected by his administration’s continuing war against illegal drugs.

NCRPO chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde who joined us in our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay admitted they have no intelligence report about involvement of rogue miners in cahoots with drug lords. He, however, did not discount the possibility the President has his own sources who might have supplied such information to their Commander-in-chief.

The NCRPO chief explained the possible joining of forces of drug lords and rogue miners could be through money-laundering schemes to raise funds for destabilization campaign. He assuaged the public they are closely monitoring all national security threats, including destabilization plotters.

But the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP), represented by Atty. Ronald Recidoro, vice president for legal and policy, expressed surprise to the alleged “funding” by unknown mining groups of destabilization campaign against President Duterte. In our regular Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast forum last Wednesday, Recidoro swore legitimate and responsible mining companies affiliated with the Chamber are not engaged in any illegal activities much less in any destabilization plots against the government.

Out of 43 mining companies belonging to the CMP, Recidoro cited, 20 of them were affected by the closure orders of Lopez. But none of them, Recidoro said could be engaged in such destabilization plots against the Duterte administration.

“Some of our members could not even pay their monthly (P20,000) dues to the Chamber. How much more could they fork out for destabilization campaign,” Recidoro argued. Speaking for the mining industry, Recidoro reiterated the Chamber’s willingness to work with Lopez for as long as due process is observed in the questioned DENR’s mining audit.

Lopez earlier admitted the mining audit team initially recommended to her to impose relevant fines for those companies found not compliant or violating specific provisions of their mining permit and licenses. But the DENR Secretary said she opted to impose the full penalty of closure subject to the final approval by the Office of the President.

This is why, Recidoro said, the Chamber fully supports the position taken by Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez to review the mining audit done by the DENR. Dominguez is the co-chairman of the DENR Secretary in the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).

Invited by the CA committee as resource person at the hearing the confirmation of Lopez, Dominguez told them President Duterte specifically tasked the MICC to review the orders issued by the DENR Secretary. Dominguez said the MICC has the mandate to review and assess all mining-related laws, rules and regulations, issuances and agreements, and to ensure the continuing dialogue and coordination among all stakeholders in the mining industry.

This is a classic play of good cop, bad cop addressing the woes of the moribund mining industry. As to who is the good cop or bad cop between Lopez and Dominguez, the mining industry will just have to rely upon the better judgment of President Duterte as the chief cop whose avowed governance policy to pursue what is “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

 

REGINA “GINA” LOPEZ
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