November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Cayetano confirmed; Ubial, Taguiwalo wait again

THE COMMISSION on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano as new Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary within minutes after session opened on Wednesday, May 17.

On the other hand, deliberations on the appointments of Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial and Social Welfare Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo were delayed anew.

CA Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Panfilo M. Lacson in his remarks at the CA’s plenary acknowledged what he called “the shortest confirmation hearing of a Cabinet secretary” after Mr. Cayetano was confirmed within three minutes of the commission’s proceedings.

Majority Floor Leader Rep. Rodolfo T. Albano III of the House contingent in the CA had said for his part: “I move to recommend to the plenary the confirmation of the nomination of Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, even without him sitting there in front.”

With no objection raised, Mr. Cayetano proceeded with his speech, articulating in effect his policy: “We all give our part to pursue the constitutional mandate of an independent foreign policy. Paramount considerations have been the welfare of the Filipino people, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, national security, and the right to self-determination.”

“In the field of foreign relations, where much [has] been done, there remains so much to do: advocating and pushing for our national interest; strengthening our bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries and organizations around the world; and, of course the protection, welfare, and comfort of our Filipinos overseas (workers), particularly our modern day heroes,” he added.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella welcomed the addition of Mr. Cayetano to the “President’s official family.”

Other DFA officials also confirmed yesterday are Wilfredo C. Santos (Ambassador to Iran with concurrent jurisdiction over Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), Adnan V. Alonto (Ambassador to Saudi Arabia with concurrent jurisdiction over Yemen), Bernardita L. Cattalla (Ambassador to Lebanon), Jim G. Minglana (Foreign Service Officer Class II) and Robert Eric A. Borje (Foreign Service Officer Class I).

The hearing for Ms. Ubial, in contrast, was emotionally charged, as she cried in her opening speech asserting “[m]y strict approach to governance [which] has earned me some enemies along the way.”

Ms. Ubial’s appointment is being opposed by Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry L. Roque, Jr., lawyer Restituto S. Mendoza and ACTS OFW Party-list Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III.

Mr. Roque, for his part, said he opposes Ms. Ubial’s appointment because of what he described as her incompetence, persistent lying to Congress, wasting government resources, and corruption, particularly in connection with the P3 billion for dengue medication that the health chief allocated to pneumonia treatment.

Mr. Roque said Ms. Ubial failed to apprise the public on the Zika virus threats. He also accused her of ordering the distribution of condoms to high school students. But Ms. Ubial for her part disputed these claims, citing in particular the P3 million that she said was used precisely for the money’s intended allocation.

As for the distribution of condoms, she said this proposal came from the National Youth Commission (NYC). “Sixty two percent (62%) of the new cases [of AIDS/HIV] actually came from [age bracket of] 15 to 24 [years old],” Ms. Ubial said.

There was little time left for the confirmation hearing on Ms. Taguiwalo, who said the “delay (in her appointment) is a form of torture.”

“We thought this is it. So, disappointed, really disappointed. But they have their reasons. We’ll just have to see what happens next. Nonetheless, we’ll continue with an emphatic service free from corruption,” she said in an ambush interview.

“Confirmed or not, as long as President Duterte places his trust on me, I will continue to serve,” Ms. Taguiwalo added.