The Commission on Appointments (CA) vote rejecting the appointment of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo immediately earned condemnation from progressive groups, which blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for allowing so-called vested interests to win yet again.
Minutes after the CA rejection was read at the Senate, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said vested interest won over good governance, pro-people polices and genuine service.
“This one is on Duterte as it is on the CA…The President could have asked his allies in Congress to confirm Judy yet he again chose to ‘bend the knee’ to pork barrel lawmakers, neoliberal economic managers and the militarists in his cabinet,” Reyes said.
“The rejection exposes the utter bankruptcy of the current ruling system and the reactionary character of the Duterte regime. He chose business-as-usual, reactionary politics over genuine change,” Reyes said in his Facebook post.
In a secret vote, at least 13 CA members comprising majority of the commission voted against Taguiwalo’s confirmation.
Pork barrel in the DSWD
Taguiwalo’s troubles with both houses of Congress began when she issued her Memorandum Circular 9 on August 6, 2016 clarifying that DSWD assistance to the poor shall no longer require “guarantee letters” from representatives and senators.
Lawmakers grilled Taguiwalo during the two 2017 DSWD budget hearings of the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives last year, accusing her of trying to prevent them from helping the poor in their respective districts and sectors through DSWD services.
Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin claimed that congressmen were the first people that their constituents seek help from and that MC9 implied their guarantee letters were in violation of the Supreme Court ruling against pork barrel.
Negros Oriental Representative Arnulfo Teves challenged Taguiwalo whether it was the DSWD or the lawmakers who know the poor’s plight better, while House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas threatened to drastically reduce DSWD’s proposed budget.
“We are not asking money from you. You are asking money from Congress. No budget can be spent on your programs without the (Congress) granting it,” Fariñas told Taguiwalo.
During her confirmation hearings, Taguiwalo was also repeatedly questioned about her past as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and joining the New People’s Army to fight the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.
Taguiwalo said she will always be proud of her decision to go underground during Marcos’ martial rule.
Duterte’s militarist swing
But National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said CA’s rejection of Taguiwalo is actually part of Duterte’s increasing attack against the Left.
Expressing dismay over the negative vote, Sison said patriotic and progressive forces can expect more ultra-reactionary actions from the Duterte government.
Taguiwalo, along with Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Masa are NDFP nominees to the Duterte Cabinet.
“The rejection of the appointment of Judy Taguiwalo is one more sign that the Duterte regime is becoming more and more reactionary and servile to anti-national and anti-democratic interests,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.
Sison said the development is in line with the increasingly militaristic track being implemented by Duterte, something both legal progressives and the underground revolutionary groups must prepare to fight.
“The revolutionary forces and people must deal with the fact that Duterte has junked the peace negotiations and is carrying out a single-minded policy of war, death and destruction. They must fight resolutely and fiercely against a brutal and fascist Marcos-type regime that scandalously operates like a Mafia syndicate of corrupt bureaucrats, drug lords and gangsters,” Sison warned.
Duterte’s former professor said attacks against progressives are in line with the all-out war policy which the President has carried out since the beginning of his administration under the counter-insurgency policies Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan.
“All patriotic and progressive forces have to develop a broad united front against the puppet and reactionary US-Duterte regime,” Sison urged. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)