CA member defends secrecy of votes on Lopez's rejection

A MEMBER of the Commission on Appointments (CA) that rejected the confirmation of Regina Paz "Gina" Lopez as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary has defended the manner by which the panel had voted.

Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III, who is the CA's majority leader, said the confidentiality of their votes must be maintained to prevent lawmakers from being "preyed" to the public.

Albano added that the secret proceeding allows the panel members to voice out their opinions without the "pressure" from the public.

"Alam mo kaya nga namin ginawa yan so people won't be preyed to the crowd...Alam mo kasi the pressure can work both ways eh, pwede ka ma-pressure nung pro [appointment], pwede rin nung no na nag lo-lobby," he said.

Albano said the members of the panel are barred from disclosing what took place during the secret deliberation and those who will violate this rule may face an ethics complaint.

"Kung sino man yung malakas ang loob na mag divulge ng nangyari sa executive session, maee-ethics 'yon kasi according to our rules, bawal 'yon, may expulsion yon," he said.

However, CA rules provide that members are allowed to reveal and explain their individual votes but not of their colleagues.

Questions about the integrity of the CA were raised following President Rodrigo Duterte's remark that "lobby money" played a part in the rejection of Lopez as DENR secretary.

Albano said he is open to probe into the allegations of bribery.

Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV, a member of the CA minority bloc, said he will urge the panel to "revisit" the secret voting process, and may eventually push for the modification of the rules.

"Aside from the issue of accountability, there were also issues of honesty with regard to some of the members' public pronouncements on their vote," said Aquino, one of the senators who voted to approve Lopez' appointment.

Aquino, Senator Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan, all from the Liberal Party, voted for the confirmation of Lopez.

Lopez last May 3 was rejected by the CA panel due to questions regarding qualifications to head DENR.

However, she attributed her rejection to "business interests" that have been affected by her policies. (With Camille P. Balagtas/SunStar Philippines)
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