By Mario Casayuran and Vanne Terrazola
The powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday confirmed the appointments of three Cabinet members, five ranking Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and several other key government officials.
The three Cabinet members are Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Ilasco Guevarra; Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat; and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Rualo Castriciones.
Their confirmation was made as the CA, the Senate, and the House of Representatives are scheduled to go on a sine die adjournment tomorrow.
Confirmed AFP officials were Chief of Staff General Carlito G. Galvez Jr., Brigadier Generals Rolando R. Rodil, Joselito F. Maclan, and Nelson P. Collantes; and Colonel Emmanuel G. Galvez.
In Wednesday’s CA plenary session presided over by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, the commission also confirmed the appointment of Socorro Balinghasay Inting as commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec). It likewise confirmed the nominations of Sulpicio Miguel Confiado as Philippine Ambassador to the Egypt, with concurrent jurisdiction over Djibouti, Eritreea, and Sudan; and Akmad Atiah Sakkam as Philippine Ambassador to Jordan, with concurrent jurisdiction over Palestine.
Then Lt. Gen. Galvez was appointed to the top military post in April, replacing AFP chief General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, whose term had been extended by President Duterte last December.
Galvez, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985, was the chief of the AFP-Western Mindanao Command prior to his appointment as military chief.
Guevarra’s appointment was unopposed in the CA. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea even graced the confirmation hearing to show support for his former senior deputy executive secretary (SDES).
Experience in law, public service
Citing Guevarra’s experience in law and public service, having served under two presidents, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the CA Committee Justice and Judicial and Bar Council, recommended his confirmation after a hearing that lasted for more than an hour.
At the confirmation hearing Wednesday, Guevarra admitted he “politely declined” when the post was first offered to him.
“I said I was perfectly happy doing my work as senior deputy executive secretary at the Office of the President, and I said there are a lot more qualified people to perform the high-profile work of the SOJ,” he said.
Guevarra, nonetheless, said he is “ready to face the challenges” at the DOJ, citing his 30 years of law practice and having served under two administrations.
Describing himself as a “sober, deliberative, and less politicized,” Guevarra assured to maintain independence and uphold the rule of law in the DOJ, just as President Duterte supposedly instructed him.
His association with the President, he added, is also not a factor in his disposition of charges.
“The President told me to follow the rule of law, and that is what I intend to do,” he told the CA panel.
Guevarra also vowed to review high-profile drug cases that are being dismissed.
Poster girl for tourism
Rep. Jerry P. Trenas, chairman of the CA Tourism and Economic Development Committee, had moved for the confirmation of Puyat’s appointment.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said that at a time when the last and the least, and not the best and the brightest, are dumped on agencies, the DOT is fortunate to have Puyat. “It did not only get a manager, but an ad model as well.”
“She is one Tourism secretary who can also be the national poster girl for tourism. As you can see, she has the face that could launch a thousand cruise ships. And I say that with authority, having been married to the original Eskinol girl,” Recto said.
“Her two decades of government service is detailed in three pages of fine print in her CV (curriculum vitae).
While her longest stint has been with the Department of Agriculture, which spanned three administrations, what is not well known is that she had served in four dozens task forces, committees, advisory councils, and corporate boards,” he said.
“Despite her punishing workload, at home and at work, she made time to teach fiscal policy for 20 years in that public school in Diliman,” Recto added.
Recto said he believes that Puyat’s background would serve her in good stead as she restores sense on how the billions of pesos allocated to DOT, both regular and off-budget, are spent.
The CA Committee on Agrarian Reform, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, had earlier moved for Castriciones’ confirmation.
With 21 years of experience in the Judiciary, Inting, a former Court of Appeals justice, had said her focus would be on the speedy disposition of electoral cases.
Inting had earlier told the CA Constitutional Commissions and Offices Committee, chaired by Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, that she wanted to be installed as the head of an oversight committee to hasten the disposition of pending electoral cases.