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Goodbye Lopez, hello Cimatu

Gina Lopez is part of the past and President Duterte has appointed former military chief Roy Cimatu as her
replacement as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The announcement shocked the loyal followers of Lopez, especially the groups that were holding mass actions calling for her reinstatement.

Some of these group members were drastic enough to chain themselves to the DENR central office gates to dramatize their support for Lopez. They also protested the victory of what they described as “business interests” in the Commission of Appointments (CA).

While Lopez has long been known for being a fighter for the well-being of the environment, Cimatu’s background shows no previous inclination to it. He is an unknown as far as being an environmental advocate is concerned.

This early, some people are already worried that Cimatu may not have the heart for his new job. It’s hard to fill the shoes of Lopez who made a tremendous impact that shocked the entire mining industry.

Cimatu was Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff from May to September 2002 during the Arroyo administration.

After his retirement, Cimatu was named Middle East crisis manager before becoming the chair of the Philippine Middle East Preparedness Committee.

When President Aquino assumed office, Cimatu’s term was extended up to June 2011. Duterte reappointed him as special presidential envoy to the Middle East last year.

In some people’s minds, Cimatu is believed to be a “yes man” to his superiors due to his military background. But the man still has to show his worth. Let’s give him time and see how he will fare against the miners who continue to destroy the environment.

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Duterte’s controversial statement that the CA rejection of Lopez’s appointment was influenced by lobby money remains a hot issue.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he was pushing for Senate President Aquilino Pimentel to investigate the matter because it affected the integrity of the CA and its individual members.

Pimentel, who chairs the CA, said he was open to an investigation as long as there was evidence he could work on.

The CA can call for an investigation all they want. But it doesn’t change the fact that the remark came from no less than Duterte himself. And the President believes that the CA can be bribed.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)