Allegations of bribery in the Commission of Appointments (CA) had been raised after Gina Lopez lost her nomination as Environment Secretary last week.
Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Sato is the latest among lawmakers who called for an investigation regarding the incident. She had actively expressed her support of Senator Panfilo Lacson’s call for Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentell III to conduct a Senate probe regarding bribery allegations in the Commission of Appointments. Both Sato and Lacson are also members of the CA.
“I believe inaction will be a disservice to our people and to our country. Any allegation that undermines the integrity and independence of the CA must be taken seriously,” Sato said.In a statement, Sato said that she does not question Lopez’s passion for the environment and her vigorous campaign against irresponsible mining.
However, she cited Lopez’s tendency to use her “prerogative over established rules and regulations, and ignore due process [was] an utter disregard for the rule of law and [showed] a lack of understanding of the function and role of the executive department.” As a result, Lopez had “inadvertently gave illegal loggers, irresponsible miners, and environmental criminals a loophole or a workaround through legalese and technicalities to the detriment of affected communities and the marginalized sectors.”
Sato also cited that Lopez had also set aside civil service rules when she had hired 55 “consultants” and officials.
President Duterte himself had claimed that certain “lobby money” was involved in Lopez’s rejection as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), while Lacson had called on the President saying that he is making a “sweeping assault” on the CA.
Lacson also criticized his fellow members of the panel stating that other close allies of the President like Senators Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Zubiri had sought guidance from the President. He also called out on other CA members who rejected Lopez’s nomination and yet, declared public support for her had violated the Commission’s amended rules that required secret balloting.
Lopez lost the nomination in a 16-8 vote in favor of rejecting her nomination.