CA confirms De Lima, others

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Five appointees of President Benigno Aquino III finally passed the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday.

The CA confirmed the ad interim appointments of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, and Commission on Audit (COA) Commissioners Heidi Mendoza and Jose Fabia.

Malacanang on Wednesday welcomed the confirmation of the appointment of three members of the Cabinet two COA commissioners.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda congratulated the newly confirmed Cabinet members.

On De Lima's appointment, Lacierda said she "displayed true grace under pressure".

He also said that Soliman "truly deserved to be confirmed".

Both De Lima and Soliman were bypassed by the CA 17 times and Paje 13 times since 2010.

Nineteen members of the CA were present during the hearing. They include Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Antonio Trillanes, Jose Jinggoy Estrada, Sergio Osmena, Vicente Sotto III and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, Representatives Conrado Estrella III, Rommel Amatong, Antonio del Rosario, Roy Loyola, Catalino Pizarro, Rufus Rodriguez, Senen Mel Sarmiento, Rodolfo Farinas, Rosendo Labadlabad, and Rodolfo Albano III.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, who is the presiding officer, said Senator Loren Legarda is out of the country for an official mission while Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago did not show up due to her chronic fatigue syndrome illness.

No members of the CA objected when motions to confirm the said Cabinet secretaries and COA commissioners were made on the floor.

De Lima who was grilled and hurdled the numerous controversies and allegations surrounding her personal and professional background expressed her gratitude before members of the CA.

While De Lima is proving to be one of the most controversial Cabinet officials of President Aquino and among those who have been repeatedly bypassed by the powerful bicameral appointments body for nearly four years now, she was given a green light by lawmakers amid some sensitive personal issues being thrown at her, including alleged illicit affairs with certain men.

"Secretary De Lima fully deserves the position of Secretary of Justice. She has discharged her duties with sublime intentions and steadfast devotion to the cause of human rights and justice for all," said Senator Pimentel during his endorsement for the Justice Secretary's appointment in the plenary.

"I can only hope then that those who are implicated in the investigations being conducted by the Department of Justice under her stewardship would look at those circumstances as opportunities to prove that in this country, we are governed by the Rule of Law, where truth and justice will ultimately prevail in the cases that we are, at times, forced to face," Pimentel said during the plenary session.

Pimentel, chairman of the so-called screening committee handling De Lima's papers in the CA, admitted that the House of Representatives' delegation in the CA, voted as a block and favored her confirmation.

De Lima, for her part, expressed gratitude from members of the CA, as she promised to deliver what is being expected from her as Justice chief.

"I feel so happy. Dahil dito lalong dapat akong magsisipag upang maipakitang karapat-dapat ako sa tiwalang ibinigay sa akin," said De Lima.

"I'm very very relieved. It is a very humbling process kahit napakaraming nag attempt na pahirapan ako. I thanked the good Lord. This has been an ordeal for me. But this is a very humbling experience," De Lima told reporters when asked to comment.

Former whistleblower Sandra Cam, one of De Lima's oppositors who raised the said issue before the CA, claimed to have in her possession alleged sex videos of De Lima.

Cam, who was also present during the confirmation hearing, maintained that De Lima is morally unfit, incompetent, ineffective and ill-equipped for the said position.

Cam described the confirmation of De Lima as a clear "mockery of justice."

De Lima's department is the one tasked to investigate the alleged pork barrel scam involving several members of Congress.

Senator Estrada earlier grilled De Lima but was overruled by members of the CA Justice Committee who unanimously voted to confirm De Lima after being bypassed for four years.

"Now I can say that my 100 percent dedication and focus on my job is expected. This is entirely a different feeling when you are already confirmed by this powerful body," de Lima said.

De Lima said she is focused on her work and have no intention of filing charges against Cam but should the latter pursue to release her alleged sex video, "I will not hesitate to file charges against Cam if she continue to threaten me."

At the same time, De Lima warned that should Cam make good on her threat, she would initiate the investigation just to know who are the people behind her.

"Huwag kang mag-alala Sandra, walang akong gagawin anuman sayo," she said.

During the hearing, De Lima said the third batch of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) will be filed this Friday or early next week by the Justice Department before the Office of the Ombudsman.

She also confirmed that no legislators from Congress will be charged.

Ruby Tuason, she confirmed, will be under provisional admission under the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Estrada, for his part, clarified that he will not be an obstacle to any of the Cabinet members of the Aquino administration.

The "House bloc voting" reportedly paved the way in having the nomination of other Cabinet members.

The solid house bloc that also nominated to the post of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje finally breezed through the committee level and outvoted the lone dissenter, Senator Osmena.

"Thank you very much for this chance," said Paje.

Secretary Soliman, for her part, also expressed gratitude to the CA members and the Filipino people.

"Maraming pong salamat. A humbling experience. We will continue to serve the people. Lalo ko pong pag iibayuhin ang aking trabaho" said Soliman.

When asked to comment about Senator Santiago, Soliman merely said: "I wish her good health."

Appointments of COA Commissioners Mendoza and Fabia were also approved.

Mendoza, who earned the ire of Senator Estrada, said: "It is time to buckle down to work."

Senate President Drilon said among Cabinet members only Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla "remained unconfirmed."

"I assume the President will issue an ad interim appointment next week," said Drilon.

The Senate chief assured they will continue to monitor Petilla's performance and everything will be based on competence." (Camille P. Balagtas/SDR/Sunnex)

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