CURRENT POLITICAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
1 March 2017
The Commission on Appointments, a Constitutionally-mandated body tasked to screen identified appointments by the President, can either not act on, suspend or reject DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’s appointment set to be heard by the Commission today.
Checking the Rules of the Commission on Appointments and Rules of the Standing Committees, from the website of the Commission itself, the actions described above are fully set out in secs. 17 (no action), 20 (suspension) and implied from sec. 23 in the said document if the votes against the Cabinet Secretary will outnumber those who are in favor.
In case the Commission will not act on the appointment, here is what will happen, from sec. 17 of the Rules :
SECTION 17. UNACTED NOMINATIONS OR APPOINTMENTS RETURNED TO THE PRESIDENT. Nominations or appointments submitted by the President of the Philippines which are not finally acted upon at the close of the session of Congress shall be returned to the President and, unless new nominations or appointments are made, shall not again be considered by the Commission.
In this situation, the appointment will be returned to the President, who may decide to nominate or re-appoint the Secretary anew.
Now, suppose the Commission decides to suspend consideration of the appointment, the rules in sec. 20 state :
SECTION 20. SUSPENSION OF CONSIDERATION OF NOMINATIONS OR APPOINTMENTS. Any member may move for the suspension of action by the Commission on any nomination or appointment favorably recommended by a standing committee and the Chairman shall suspend the consideration of said nomination or appointment: Provided, that, such suspension may be taken up on the next succeeding session of the Commission; Provided, further, that this section shall not apply to nominations or appointments taken up by the Commission during the last session prior to a sine die adjournment of Congress
What will happen in this situation is that the suspension will be taken up in the next succeeding session of the Commission. The second proviso dealing with the sine die adjournment of Congress refers to appointments that were taken up by the Commission before the end of one session, or an adjournment of a previous session of Congress.
For the curious, if we ask Richard S. Beth and Jessica Tollestrup, sine die adjournment means :
xxx.. “an adjournment that ends an annual session.” The literal meaning of “sine die” is “without day;” the implication is that the session is adjourning without having set any day for a subsequent meeting. When a chamber has established no date on which to return for any further meeting of the same annual session, the consequence is that it will not meet again until it assembles for its next annual session.
Accordingly, an adjournment sine die necessarily brings an annual session to an end, and when Congress reconvenes after an adjournment sine die, a new annual session begins; for instance, the sine die adjournment of Congress in December 2009 terminated the first session of the 111th Congress, and when Congress next assembled in January 2010, it thereby began the second session of the 111TH Congress. (author’s note : this refers to the US Congress, from which our own Congress borrows much of its procedures, practices and norms)
The third scenario, of rejection, is the end of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, though this may take some time, as the Commission is now duty-bound to hear the testimonies of Mr. Rodolfo RJ Javellana, Mr. Manuel J. Galvez and Mr. Marion Karlo R. Cruz, et.al. as can be found in the notice of resetting of the supposed session of the Commission on Appointments last February 13, 2017. This could be a long drawn-out process considering that there could be many more witnesses that may be heard by the Commission.
Interestingly, the rules are not explicit about hearing testimonies FOR the nomination and only those who will OPPOSE the appointment are requirement to make their opposition under OATH, this is to make these oppositors liable to perjury (lying under oath) in case it may be proven that the oppositions talked about untruths and falsehoods. Ultimately, this will boil down to the Commission members if they wish to skip listening to the oppositors and decide as earlier or will give a chance to Sec. Gina Lopez to respond to those opposing her nomination.
Based on the list of the Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to which Sec. Gina Lopez’s appointment is first referred, these are : Chairman – Sen. Emmanuel D. Pacquiao, Vice Chairman – Rep. Benhur L. Salimbangon and members, Rep. Joel Mayo Z. Almario, Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Sen. Alan Peter “Companero” S. Cayetano, Sen. Franklin M. Drilon, Sen. Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, Rep. Antonio R. Floirendo, Jr., Rep. Wes Gatchalian, Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan II, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, Sen. Loren Legarda, Rep. Rosenda Ann Ocampo, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Rep. Josephine Y. Ramirez Sato and Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri
Ex –officio members of the Committee are : Vice-Chairman Rep. Ronaldo B. Zamora; Majority Floor Leader Rep. Rodolfo T. Albano III, Asst. Majority Floor Leader Sen. Vicento C. Sotto III, Asst. Majority Floor Leader Rep. Abraham “Bambol” N. Tolentino, Minority Floor Leader Sen. Ralph G. Recto, Asst. Minority Floor Leader Rep. Julieta R. Cortuna and Asst. Minority Floor Leader Rep. Jerry P. Trenas. The Commission Chair is Senate President Koko Pimentel.