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Secretary Taguiwalo

Secretary Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) became the third cabinet member of President Duterte to be rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA) last Wednesday, after Perfecto Yasay Jr. of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

She was rejected by the CA, which is composed of 12 senators and 12 congressmen elected by each chamber on the basis of proportional party representation. The CA is thus part of the system of checks and balances in the Philippine government, whereby the legislative department can speak out on an executive decision such as the appointment of a cabinet member.

By most accounts, Secretary Taguiwalo was doing very well as DSWD secretary. She was ably carrying out her duties and functions, including the management of the Conditional Cash Transfer program for which her predecessor had been severely criticized. In her own words, she saw no reason for the CA to reject her “if it was only a question of competence and integrity.”

It was for other reasons that she must have been rejected. She said she believed one of these reasons was her refusal to release funds for some projects of congressmen which, she said, appeared to be “pork barrel” funds in disguise.

In response to questions of CA members, she made known her stand for free tuition in state universities, a project of the administration.

But she was opposed to the “tax reform” bill which, she said, would be disadvantageous to the nation’s poor. This is a major administration advocacy.

She is also one of three cabinet members appointed by President Duterte when he sought to make peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) with its political National Democratic Front (NDF) and its combat arm New People’s Amy (NPA).

Some critics said President Duterte should have taken steps to mobilize his allies in Congress to get Secretary Taguiwalo confirmed by the CA. But her position on new taxes separated her from the administration which is pushing all-out for the bill. And the talks with the CPP-NDF-NPA have broken down. She was thus on her own, no longer one for whom the President would fight against oppositors in Congress.

These political considerations must have tipped the balance against her in the Commission on Appointments. But she leaves the government service with her integrity intact and with a record of capable and competent service to the nation, especially the poor whom the DSWD was specially organized to serve.