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No transparency as Commission on Appointments rejects Paulyn Ubial as Health Secretary

The Commission on Appointments (CA) has voted to reject the ad interim appointment of Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial this Tuesday afternoon, October 8.

Ubial is the fifth member of President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet that the CA rejected this year, following Perfecto Yasay (Department of Foreign Affairs), Gina Lopez (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), Judy Taguiwalo (Department of Social Welfare and Development), and Rafael Mariano (Department of Agrarian Reform).

Ubial was hounded by a wide array of issues during her confirmation hearings, including her strong support for the reproductive health law, the leadership row in the government-run Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH), to her son’s social media posts against Senators Manny Pacquiao and Vicente Sotto III.

However, there’s no way to find out for sure who voted for or against Ubial because the CA voted through an executive session, which is informally referred to as a closed-door meeting. More alarmingly, this practice apparently started just this year during the confirmation hearings for Lopez.

paulyn ubial commission on appointments

Paulyn Jean Ubial’s appointment as Secretary of Health has been rejected by the Commission on Appointments (Credits: Official Facebook page of DOH)

Article XI, section 1 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “public office is a public trust” and that “public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people.” Being able to screen presidential appointees to senior government positions is one of the means by which the legislature serves as a check-and-balance to presidential power.

However, the process should be transparent. How can the public know the rightfulness of CA’s decision if they don’t even know how their elected representatives voted against a certain nominee?

Lynda Jumilla, senior political reporter for ABS-CBN, noted via Twitter that having five cabinet secretaries rejected by the CA is an unprecedented development for any President. While the executive and the legislature are co-equal branches of government, it is in the best of a President to make sure that his or her nominees get confirmed.

After all, they got appointed because the President deemed them as the best person for the job, right? So in this case, Duterte could have made discreet phone calls to CA members to try to persuade them to vote yes to his nominees. After all, his party boasts of leading a super majority in both the Congress and the Senate. What happened?

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