‘Acting’ only

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Except for one, it was a great surprise to learn that top caliber economic managers of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM for short) have yet to breeze through the confirmation wringer of the Commission on Appointments (CA). One of them even got bypassed last week. They were among the eleven Cabinet Secretaries who failed to hurdle the CA before it adjourned together with the entire 19th Congress. Fortunately, they merely suffered technical bypass for lack of material time to complete their confirmation process.

Technically bypassed in particular were Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Manuel Bonoan, and Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Erwin Tulfo. The two Marcos Cabinet officials were on the verge of being confirmed on the last day of plenary session of the CA last Wednesday.

However, Senate president Juan Miguel Zubiri who chairs the powerful confirmation body, decided to give way to the sessions of the Senators in order to ratify two urgent bills of PBBM. Thus, the Senate was able to ratify the SIM registration bill, and the postponement of elections for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan before the 19th Congress adjourned.

The 25-man CA is composed of 12 Senators while the other half comes from the House of Representatives. Both chambers adjourned for their first month-long recess starting on October 1. The last day of plenary session of CA is usually set on the last Wednesday before the scheduled adjournment. The sessions of Congress will resume on Nov. 7. Before they adjourned though, the CA approved the nominations of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo and 23 new diplomats.

Curiously, PBBM’s economic team composed of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno; Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual; National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Arsenio Balisacan; the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista; (and Bonoan of DPWH) got bypassed, too, by the CA. Pangandaman is the only member of this elite economic team in the Cabinet who got the CA nod.

Called as the Socio-Economic Cluster of the Cabinet, it also included the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which the President holds in concurrent capacity. Since day one though of the incumbent administration, PBBM has yet to appoint his Agriculture Secretary.

Zubiri reminded the President he needs to issue new ad interim appointments to all his CA bypassed Cabinet appointees. Aside from the PBBM economic team, the following Cabinet nominees were likewise bypassed by the CA, namely: Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Human Settlements Secretary Jose Acuzar, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan Uy, Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople, Science Secretary Renato Solidum Jr., and, Press Secretary Trixie Angeles. Also bypassed were Commission on Audit Chairman Jose Calida and Nelson Celis as commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The CA earlier confirmed on various dates the appointments of the other half of PBBM Cabinet officials along with Comelec Chairman George Garcia, Civil Service Commission Chairman Karlo Nograles, and the academe representative to the Judicial and Bar Council Nesauro Hernandez Firme.

Fresh from CA confirmation, the first thing one of these Cabinet officials did was to embark on a trip to Australia for climate change conference. This brings to mind former President Rodrigo Duterte who axed at least three sub-Cabinet officials due to frequent travels abroad. Four of his Cabinet nominees also got rejected by the CA. Just saying.

Mea culpa. Sen. Mark Villar represented the Senate during PBBM’s official trip to New York last Sept. 18-24. Presidential sister, Sen. Imee Marcos flew last Sept. 26 to the United States for undisclosed official business.

Speaking of ex-president Duterte, the former Chief Executive broke his self-imposed retirement from politics. Flying out from his home base in Davao City, he flew to Metro Manila last week to preside the reorganization of the former ruling administration party PDP-Laban. In his usual extemporaneous address before his party-mates, the former Davao City Mayor declared the PDP-Laban will continue  with its role as “fiscalizer” on policy issues and national concerns even if the incumbent administration includes his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte.

Mr. Duterte assumed as chairman of the PDP-Laban while Palawan Rep. Jose “Pepito” Alvarez was elected president of the party. This despite pending appeal by the camp of Senate minority leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on the division ruling of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that recognized the PDP-Laban faction headed by then Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi as the legitimate party officials.

The Liberal Party (LP) elected also last week their new party officials now headed by veteran lawmaker, Albay Rep. Edsel Lagman as president. On the other hand, former Senate chief Vicente “Tito” Sotto III who heads the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) swore in last week two newest members of the party, namely, ex-Speaker, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque, and Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson.

This early, these major political parties have started their reorganizations and recruitment just four months after the holding of the May 9 national and local elections.

On Saturday (Oct. 8), PBBM will mark his first 100 days in office.

The 31 million Filipinos who voted for the UniTeam campaign promises of PBBM and VP Duterte expect so much from both of them. What have they got to show for the first 100 days of this administration?

It does not augur well for the administration of PBBM when half of his Cabinet officials are all on “acting” capacities only, including his newly appointed Executive Secretary, retired SC Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin. Actually, a total of 133 nominees of PBBM, including the eleven Cabinet officials, were bypassed by the CA.


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