CA rejects appointment of DSWD chief Taguiwalo

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Updates with statements from lawmakers, status of vote, quote from Taguiwalo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) — The Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected Wednesday the appointment of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

The CA said it conducted a thorough review of Taguiwalo's background to see if she would fit as head of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"I stand before this august chamber as chairman of the committee on labor, employment and social welfare to move for the Commission on Appointments to reject the ad interim of Judy Marigomen Taguiwalo as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development," said CA committee on labor, employment, and social welfare chairman Representative Joel Almario.

A majority vote of at least 13 of  25 members is needed to reject an appointment. Almario did not say how many voted in favor of or against Taguiwalo.

Related: Taguiwalo: Postponement of confirmation 'a kind of torture'

Taguiwalo: I am not surprised

Speaking to reporters after the CA rejected her confirmation, Taguiwalo said she saw no reason for her rejection if it was merely a matter of competence, integrity, and track record

"I have served the people well. I gave my all and I'm proud to say that my integrity remains intact and I have never once lost sight of the people I have sworn to serve with full fidelity and courage," she said.

She added she was not surprised at the rejection, and the CA's decision would "in no way deter nor distract me from what I know best, serving the people."

Taguiwalo believes the decision of the CA does not reflect the feelings of the people.

"Buo ang aking tiwala sa mamamayan at higit kaninuman, sa kanila ako may pananagutan," she said.

[Translation: I have complete faith in the people and more than anyone else, I am answerable to them.]

Taguiwalo suspects the reason behind her rejection were her stand on the pork barrel issue, policy differences, and that she is seen as a member of the Left.

Taguiwalo said she needed to take a break after her rejection, and visit her 98-year-old mother.

"I am in good company. I think to be rejected like Gina Lopez is a bunch of honor for us. Kasi never kami nasabi na corrupt kami. Tumindig kami sa prinsipyo [It can never be said that we were corrupt. We stood by our principles]," she said.

Officials, lawmakers sad over Taguiwalo's rejection

Palace officials and lawmakers expressed their disappointment with the rejection of Taguiwalo, a well-known activist respected by the pro-poor and labor sectors.

"We are saddened by the Commission on Appointments' rejection of Secretary Judy Taguiwalo," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

"Secretary Taguiwalo had served the Duterte administration with passion, profession and integrity.  She made an impact in the lives of many Filipinos in her tenure as DSWD Secretary," he added.

Abella said President Rodrigo Duterte is looking for a possible replacement.

The Liberal Party said its contingent in the CA – Senators Frank Drilon, Ralph Recto, Bam Aquino, and Kiko Pangilinan – all voted in favor of Taguiwalo's confirmation.

"It's unfortunate that Secretary Taguiwalo did not have enough votes for her confirmation, even with my colleagues vouching for her integrity and work ethic," Aquino said in a statement.

Senator Sonny Angara said he voted for Taguiwalo, having worked with her in the University of the Philippines and on issues concerning higher education.

"Tulad ng ating mga kasamahan sa Senado, tayo rin po ay bumoto para sa kumpirmasyon ni Sec. Judy Taguiwalo," Angara said.

"At nakita ko po roon ang kanyang kakayahan, ang kanyang integridad at higit sa lahat, siguro, yung kanyang puso para sa mahihirap. At iyon talaga ang natatangi niyang kwalipikasyon para umupo bilang Secretary ng Department of Social Welfare and Development," he added.

Representative Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna stood by the integrity of Taguiwalo and said her rejection was a blow to the Duterte administration and the millions served by the DSWD.

"The Duterte administration will be losing a very competent and dedicated DSWD secretary with this rejection and the majority of the people catered to by the DSWD would be the ones to suffer," said Zarate in the statement.

Taguiwalo, a human rights victim under former President Marcos' martial law regime, was one of the left-leaning members of the Cabinet appointed by President Duterte when he assumed office in July 2016.

In her 14 months as DSWD secretary, she streamlined and improved the distribution of relief goods and financial assistance to victims of calamities, ensuring basic needs of food and shelter were delivered promptly.

The Liberal Party also commended her for continuing a conditional cash transfer program of the previous administration that benefited 4.4 million poor Filipino families.

Taguiwalo is the third member of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet rejected by the CA, following Perfecto Yasay for Foreign Affairs, and Gina Lopez for Environment and Natural Resources.

The appointments of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial are still pending.

This is a developing story. Please refresh page for updates.