MANILA–Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Monday said he is open to review the secret voting system of the Commission on Appointments (CA) after Sen. Panfilo Lacson complained about how some members of the appointments body manifested their vote for Gina Lopez as Environment Secretary.
Lacson previously said that manifesting votes for Lopez defeated the essence of secret voting. The CA recommendation to reject Lopez’s confirmation was agreed on during an executive session.
However, some members of the CA manifested that they objected with the recommendation.
“Pwede i-revisit, wala namang bumabawal sa atin na pag-aralan ulit yun. Magandang point na sinabi ni Sen. Ping (We can revisit it, there is nothing prohibiting us from reviewing it again),” Sotto told reporters in an interview.
“Pwede i-review, lagyan ng mas maraming parameters para hindi magulo (We can review, add more parameters so it’s less complicated),” he added.
Sotto explained that a manifestation in the plenary is not considered an objection to reject Lopez’s appointment. He further said that it was allowed in the CA’s rules.
“In our rules, you are allowed to express your vote in the executive session,” Sotto said.
Among senators who manifested being in favor of Lopez’s appointment are Sotto, Loren Legarda, Joseph Victor Ejercito and Francis Pangilinan.
Pangilinan, meanwhile, revealed that Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV also voted in favor of Lopez’s appointment.
Several reports said that Sen. Manny Pacquiao, chair of the CA environment committee and Manila Rep. Sandy Ocampo voted for Lopez’s confirmation. This made the total number of pro-Lopez lawmakers to nine.
However, previous reports said that there were only eight who voted in favor of Lopez’s appointment and 16 who voted against it.
In a separate interview, Drilon said that because the CA rules were recently revised, he could not tell the chances of another amendment.
“That was just revised and that was proposed by the House so I do not know the chances of an amendment at this point,” Drilon told reporters.
Drilon also expressed support for calls urging Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel, CA chair, to investigate the allegations that “lobby money” influenced the rejection of Lopez’s appointment.
Lacson and Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato both urged Pimentel to probe the claim against members of the appointments body and mete out appropriate actions.
This after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte insinuated that Lopez was not confirmed because “money talks.”
“I support that request of Sen. Lacson, Rep. Sato. I would urge the Senate President, as chairman, to conduct an investigation because it affects the Commission, it affects the individual members of the commission,” Drilon said.