MANILA (Updated) -- The Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected Wednesday the ad interim appointment of Environment Secretary Regina Paz "Gina" Lopez.
She is the second appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte whose appointment was rejected by the powerful CA.
It was Senator Manny Pacquiao, chair of CA environment committee, who moved to reject Lopez's appointment as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Pacquiao said majority of the panel members voted to reject Lopez's appointment as they expressed concern over her alleged arbitrary and illegal directives at the agency.
Lopez was bypassed after two hearings but was reappointed by the President last April 17.
Based on the new rules, the CA will have to make a decision whether to confirm or reject an appointee who has been bypassed three times.
Lopez said she is willing to accept the decision of the CA as she maintained that her decisions on various issues have legal basis.
(Video by Al Padilla)
An emotional Lopez blamed businessmen involved in the mining business as the ones behind the decision of the CA that rejected her appointment.
"I applaud the senators and congressmen that have voted according to their conscience," she said in a press conference after the CA rejection.
Lopez said she is not surprised at all at the rejection, adding that unseen yet powerful hands from the business sector are the ones calling the shots.
"One needs tapang, because you're going to step on business interests. The job also calls for development experience," she added.
Lopez maintained that her strong convictions against the elite miners are only meant to protect the Filipino people and the next generation as she expressed her strong disappointment over the CA rejection of her appointment.
He expressed her intention to continue working with the Duterte administration in his development efforts.
"I am still willing to offer my services to Duterte in terms of development work," she said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, for his part, said it is a pointless idea for Lopez to continue serving as DENR chief although theoretically speaking she can still stay.
"It is pointless because the Constitutional body that determines fitness has already spoken," Pimentel said.
"And if the appointing power keeps on putting that person who has already been judged as unfit by the same body, then it would have the same result," Pimentel added.
Senator Franklin Drilon said Liberal Party lawmakers threw their support behind Lopez but they still failed to beat the majority.
"The Liberal Party as a bloc voted to confirm the appointment of Secretary Lopez. Unfortunately, we lost in the vote. [It's] sad. The Liberal Party would have wanted to see Secretary Lopez carry out her programs, but it's democracy and that's our system," Drilon said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, a member of LP, said that Lopez rejection was a missed opportunity to have a DENR head that would truly care and protect the country's environment.
"Ang hindi pagkumpirma kay Secretary Lopez ay pagtanggi sa makabuluhang pagbabago na ipinangako ng administrasyong ito," he said.
Senator Loren Legarda said the rejection of Lopez was "unfortunate" considering the accomplishments she has done in a year.
"In such a short time, in less than a year of service, Gina Lopez has already done a lot as DENR Secretary. She 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.
Palace respects CA decision
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Lopez the Malacañang has no choice but to accept the CA's ruling on the appointment of Lopez.
Abella noted that Lopez has provided “very profound” insights regarding the Philippine ecological situation during her stint as head of DENR.
“She’s (Lopez) part of the Cabinet and she’s already been considered part of the Cabinet. And she has contributed a lot of meaningful insights into the environment and the Philippine environmental situation,” the President’s spokesman said.
“And it is of course, it is with deep concern that the CA has seen fit to reject her appointment. On the other hand, it’s a democratic process and we respect their decision, and so we just like to, at this stage, we’ll limit at that,” he added.
Abella said the Office of the President is yet to decide who will replace Lopez.
Lopez earned the ire of the mining sector after she ordered the shutdown of 23 mining operations and cancellation of 75 mining contracts.
She also issued the imposition of huge fees on mining firms and asked for a deposit of P2 million per hectare of mined stockpile plus an additional P1 million per shipment.
Lopez maintained that she is in the process of transforming the DENR from a regulatory agency to a development agency for the common good of the people insisting that this is higher than the altar of rules and regulations.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said that Lopez's failure to show legal bases for her decisions is a major consideration for their opposition to her appointment.
Mining communities angered by CA decision
A coalition of mining-affected communities expressed indignation after the CA thumbed down the confirmation of Lopez.
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) called the rejection a tragedy for the environment and for the rights and welfare of the people.
"Secretary Gina's rejection is a betrayal of the people, and specifically of mining-affected communities who are protecting their lives and livelihoods by resisting destructive large-scale mining," said ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera.
He said the influential mining industry exerted efforts to block the confirmation of Lopez.
Dr. Ben Molino, ATM chairperson, noted the endorsement of the President and the public’s clamor as manifested in social media and in a recent survey for the confirmation of Lopez were no match against the lobby of the mining industry.
"Clearly our Congress does not represent the Filipino people. It only shows that politicians are still not to be trusted to think and decide beyond their self-interests," said Garganera. (With Ruth Abbey Gita/SunStar Philippines)