By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Three senators weighed in on Thursday on the appointment of retired Philippine Army (PA) chief, Lieutenant General Rolando Bautista, as the next Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III admitted being curious about how Bautista will go about as the DSWD chief. Bautista, who retired last October 15, joins the ranks of former military members-turned-Cabinet members under the Duterte administration.
“It would be interesting to see how a soldier will perform as DSWD secretary,” Sotto told reporters in a text message.
Sotto, who also leads the Commission on Appointments (CA), said he is not aware of any objections on the confirmation of Bautista’s ad interim appointment at present.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson maintained his support for the President’s decision in choosing a retired general to lead the government’s social welfare arm.
“Setting aside my natural bias, I have every reason to support PRRD’s assertion that our military training always puts obedience ahead of complaining. We are mission oriented hence the overall objectives comes first and foremost,” Lacson, a former police chief, said.
While Sen. Risa Hontiveros learned of Bautista as a “good military official and leader,” she raised concern that his appointment to the DSWD may lead to the “militarization” of the agency’s services.
She said she does not question Bautista’s competence in leading the military. However, she believes President Duterte could reconsider his options and appoint civilians who can run the DSWD better.
“I believe the President has other civilian colleagues who have something to offer, and I hope he considers them,” Hontiveros said in press briefing in Senate Thursday, adding that civilian sectors “should not be neglected.”
“Certainly, in the same way, I would not think about having a civilian as Armed Forces chief-of-staff. We seldom have a civilian Defense chief but I imagine that any president would select someone from the military. So, it’s a matching of designation,” she explained in a mix of English and Filipino.
Hontiveros said she will raise her concern before the CA, when they deliberate on the retired general’s appointment.