The Commission on Appointments (CA) deferred the confirmation of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo after grilling her over her links to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, May 3.
Responding to a question from Senator Panfilo Lacson, Taguiwalo admitted that the CPP recommended her for the Cabinet position but clarified that she is not a member of the group.
"CPP said [they] cannot [assume posts] because they are underground, so they recommended persons of ability, integrity, and I am happy to be nominated. If the President feels I am a deterrent, burden, obstacle, I'm always ready to go," she said.
Lacson then asked Taguiwalo on her view on violence as a form of dissent to an established authority.
“Now my question, since sabi mo di ka member na (you said you're not a member), and you’re now a member for the Cabinet, Do you abhor violence to show dissent against duly constituted authority?
Lacson recalled how his “mistah” or classmate at the Philippine Military Academy was shot and killed by NPA rebels in May 1987. His classmate’s only supposed "sin," Lacson said, was wearing the military uniform.
Taguiwalo began her response by saying there are "compelling reasons why they have decided to take arms," referring to the communist rebels.
Lacson told Taguiwalo,“You can just say yes or no.”
The secretary said it was a “tricky question” that cannot be answered with just yes or no.
Taguiwalo explained: “I was a student activist before, holding rallies. We were brutally dispersed. I've seen how [your] colleagues [used] violence against helpless people. I think it’s a very tricky question. But as a member of the Cabinet, I renounce violence. I am willing to work with him to put an end to it,” she explained.
CPP involved in 4Ps?
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, for his part, confronted Taguiwalo on the CPP’s alleged participation in the distribution of funds to Conditional Cash Transfer or Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries.
“Up to what extent would you utilize them to assist you in your work especially, in distribution of funds under the 4Ps (CCT)?” the senator asked.
Taguiwalo said her nearly one-year stint as DSWD chief would prove that she did not allow such acts.
“I think I have 10 months to show the public what kind of service I have extended, based on President Duterte’s very clear instructions. Walang kulay ang tulong; bigyan lahat ng nangangailangan (Aid has no color; give help to all those who need it),” she replied.
Taguiwalo was also grilled about her role in the peace process with communist rebels but she denied any direct involvement in it.
"I am not directly involved in it. I was consulted by the GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] for social economic reforms," the secretary said.
"I can help in the peace process by ensuring the delivery of social services, addressing the problems of the poor," she added.
On extrajudicial killings
Drilon then pointed out how unusual yet “admirable” it is for a Cabinet secretary to oppose a policy of the President, referring to Taguiwalo’s opposition to the hero’s burial for strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
"It’s unusual that a member of the Cabinet would not support the programs of the President, when his or her belief is contrary to the President’s plan. I just want to put on record – this is an admirable character," he said.
The senator then asked Taguiwalo on her stand on extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration. She replied that she is against summary executions.
“I think everyone is against EJK, including the President. That’s a no-brainer. So my stand is against EJK because we respect rule of law and we see the necessity of people doing, enjoying due process,” Taguiwalo said.
Drilon then asked her about Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa's defense of the secret jail cell discovered in a Manila precinct that held drug suspects.
"Do you condemn such practices?” Drilon asked Taguiwalo.
Taguiwalo skirted the issue. “I think it is a collegial Cabinet. It is the President who should make a decision [on the position] taken by the PNP chief. I am not in the position to condemn anyone in the Cabinet,” she said.
Drilon also asked her if she advised President Rodrigo Duterte on the Kadamay housing issue but she denied it. Duterte had allowed Kadamay members who occupied thousands of idle housing units in a government site in Bulacan to keep the homes.
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