MANILA 一 Some senators who were in favor of appointing Regina Lopez as Environment and Natural Resources Secretary were saddened by the decision of the Commission on Appointments (CA) to reject her confirmation.
After what Sen. Manny Pacquiao described as “the longest” confirmation hearing ever done, the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday rejected the appointment of Lopez.
The CA held an executive session in the Senate to vote to either adopt or reject Lopez’s appointment. Hours later, Pacquiao, chair of the CA environment committee, presented the recommendation to reject it.
Meanwhile, several senators manifested that they voted for Lopez’s confirmation including Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senators Joseph “JV” Ejercito, Loren Legarda and Francis Pangilinan.
In an interview, Pacquiao revealed that 16 voted not in favor of Lopez’s appointment while eight voted for her appointment. He previously said that Lopez has a 50-50 chance to get confirmed.
Pacquiao said that he was still hopeful that it was only the beginning of another opportunities for the feisty environment advocate.
Acting Liberal Party President Sen. Pangilinan, in a separate interview, said that LP senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros also voted in favor of her appointment.
“The decision of the Commission on Appointments to reject the appointment of Secretary Gina Lopez as the head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is saddening and disheartening,” Pangilinan said.
“The decision not to confirm Secretary Lopez is a rejection of the significant change that this administration had promised. We lost the chance to have a DENR chief that will truly care, give protection, and further foster our environment and natural resources,” he added.
In the Senate floor, Pangilinan manifested that he voted in favor of Lopez because her beliefs and advocacies matched that of the party’s for environment.
”We hope that this will not be the end for Secretary Lopez, that she will be one with the Filipino people in facing future actions for a clean, progressive, and safe environment.,” he further said.
He said that the LP hoped that the next secretary will not just be qualified but will also have a heart for the environment.
Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change, said that Lopez could have done so much more had she been given the chance.
“She (Lopez) could have done so much more if we had given her the chance. I wish my support would have been enough, but we have rules to follow,” Legarda said in her manifestation.
”Under her leadership, the DENR has undertaken an assessment of mining firms, closure of illegal quarrying operations in Mt. Banahaw, dismantling of illegal structures in Laguna Lake, and intensified operations in illegal logging hotspots in the country; while promoting sustainable economic alternatives such as ecotourism and renewable energy investments,” she added.
Meanwhile, Legarda expressed hope that the next Environment Secretary would have the same political will as Lopez.
Ejercito, for his part, said he believed Lopez is “highly qualified” for the position of DENR Secretary because of her “commitment to serve the country and her unwavering advocacy to save our environment.”
He also pointed out that Lopez should be recognized for having the guts of going against “brazen violations of big time miners.”
“This feat is admirable, and I share her conviction that no amount of income contributions to the country’s GDP can compensate the environmental destructions and negative impacts of the mining operations,” he added.
He further said that the CA should have to look “beyond certain qualifications before individuals can serve the country and be a catalyst for change” but respected the decision of the body.
Not the end
Drilon, meanwhile, said that it was not the end of Lopez’s chance at public service noting that the LP would have wanted to see Lopez carry out her programs, but it’s democracy and that’s the system.
”…This is not a perpetual disqualification of holding gov’t office, but she cannot be re-appointed as Secretary of DENR,” Drilon said.
Neophyte senator Joel Villanueva said he felt Lopez’s heart was in the right place.
Secretary Gina Lopez is one of the few who was able to stand up and challenge the status quo. Her heart is in the right place. I fully support her and the things she is fighting for,” Villanueva said.
Despite Lopez’s call for San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora to inhibit from voting, the congressman voted against Lopez’s appointment. Zamora’s brother, Manuel, is chairman of Nickel Asia Corporation.
“It is our job to count the votes and we counted it. There was no debate, we just talked about the procedures,” Zamora said.
Lopez, for her part, still thought it unfair for several members of the CA to have mining interests noting that it seemed like not going against their businesses was the only way to be confirmed.
”When you make decisions based on business decisions, you have shrinked your responsibility,” Lopez said.
She, however, said that even before the last confirmation hearing, she would do “everything” she could for the agency.
Last March, the CA also rejected Perfecto Yasay’s appointment as Foreign Affairs Secretary after his failure to disclose the details of his citizenship.