Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV says someone clearly ‘lied’ about voting in favor of former environment secretary Gina Lopez
MANILA, Philippines (May 9, 2017) — For the sake of transparency, minority Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV has filed a resolution calling on the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) to “review” its new rule allowing secret voting when it’s time to reject or approve a presidential appointment.
This came after votes on former environment secretary Gina Lopez did not add up, as the official votes did not match CA members’ public pronouncements.
“Unang-una may mga question pagdating sa final count, dun sa mga public pronouncements ng mga ibang kasama natin. Dun sa di pagtutugmang ganoon, kailangan sigurong i-review ang secret voting process. We push for a more transparent process sa CA,” Aquino told reporters on Tuesday, May 9.
(First of all , there is a question on the final count and the public pronouncements of some of our colleagues. In that case, it would be better to review the secret voting process. We push for a more transparent process in the CA.)
“Marami sa publiko na nagsasabi na parang di ho ata maganda na di alam kung ano yung boto ho talaga namin. After all, bilang representatives ng taong bayan, boto namin ang isang rason bakit kami nandito,” Aquino added. (Many from the public are saying it’s not right that they don’t know our votes. After all, as representatives of the people, our vote is one of the reasons why we’re here.)
For Aquino, someone was clearly “lying” in the 25-member CA in relation to the Lopez vote. But because it was done in secret, it’s hard to identify who.
Majority in the CA eventually voted to reject the appointment of the controversial environment secretary, who has since been replaced by retired general Roy Cimatu.
“Mukhang may lumalabas na may nagsinungaling talaga kasi hindi po tumutugma yung mga boto. Ngunit, baguhin natin yung proseso para talagang di na maulit yung ganitong pangyayari,” he said.
(It appears that someone was indeed lying because the votes don’t add up. But we need to change the process so this does not happen again.)
Change of heart
In March this year, CA members composed of members of the House of Representatives and senators, including Aquino, amended the commission’s rules to allow secret voting.
Among public officials subject to the CA process are department heads, ambassadors, consuls, and senior military officers.
Asked why he is now pushing for a review after agreeing to it earlier, Aquino said the reasons presented before seemed to be good until the voting on Lopez happened.
“Again, hindsight is 20-20 at kinailangan ngang mangyari itong nangyari kay Secretary Lopez para maisip nga na may problema itong prosesong ito. At the time, the reasons of physical safety, and taking us away from the pressures of the different lobby groups seemed to be a good idea but after the vote of Secretary Lopez, parang lumalabas nga na kailangan tong ireview ulit,” he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, another CA member, earlier said one of the reasons they resorted to secret voting was some colleagues’ fear for their safety.
“They said they represented areas and provinces [that] were infested by NPA [rebels]. I’m not referring to myself, but there were some who expressed the possibility that they might be ambushed if they returned to their provinces because they openly rejected Secretary Taguiwalo. Isn’t it a valid concern?” Lacson earlier said over radio dzBB, referring to Cabinet members who are associated with the Left.
Another CA member, who refused to be named, said the new rule was meant to protect them from “external pressures.”
Aquino said there has to be a way to balance both concerns. “But we have to weigh that with the process which has to be transparent and where we’re accountable for our votes,” he added.
The senator said the entire minority contingent in the CA, including Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Francis Pangilinan, and some members of the majority are in favor of calls to review the policy.