‘Sex video’ won’t stop De Lima confirmation

MANILA, Philippines – Sex video or no sex video, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will likely be confirmed after 4 years in office.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, chairman of the Commission on Appointments (CA) justice committee, said that the justice secretary is set to get congressional confirmation on the last session day on Wednesday, June 11, before Congress goes on a month-long break.

Pimentel said that in the committee hearing on Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano will just ask De Lima “short questions.”

“After that, there will be a motion to terminate deliberations and to endorse to the plenary the confirmation of her ad interim appointment,” Pimentel said on Tuesday.

The senator said that the House contingent of the CA already vowed to vote for De Lima. “The House delegation votes as a bloc so most likely, they will vote for the confirmation, plus one more, then it’s a majority.”

The CA is a body that the 1987 Constitution created to vet high-level presidential appointments as a mechanism for checks and balance. It is composed of 24 members: 12 senators and 12 representatives, with the Senate President as chairman.

Pimentel responded to reports that CA member Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III will ask whistleblower Sandra Cam to turn over copies of an alleged sex video of De Lima to the commission.

Cam is one of 3 individuals opposing De Lima’s confirmation. In the first confirmation hearing last week, Cam made a tearful testimony criticizing De Lima’s decisions and actions, and said she has video to prove that the secretary supposedly has “illicit affairs.”

Albano said that Cam should give the video to the CA “in the spirit of transparency and accountability.”

Pimentel shot down his idea, saying it will only delay De Lima’s confirmation. He said it had no bearing on her confirmation, especially because its existence is not proven. 

“No, because falling for that trap means bypassing her because if we subpoena [the alleged sex video], we cannot finish the deliberations tomorrow so we will not fall for that trap.”

“As chairman of the committee, hindi ako papatol sa tsismis kaya kung alleged lang iyan, [o kung] totoo iyan, alam mo in the use of tapes, you have to authenticate so hindi na po tayo papasok sa ganyan,” Pimentel said.

(I will not fall for gossip so if that is just alleged or even if it is real, you know in the use of tapes, you have to authenticate it so we won’t get into that.)

If the committee endorses De Lima’s confirmation, she will join Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje at the CA plenary to secure their confirmation after 4 years.

Appointed in 2010, the 3 have yet to be confirmed. Paje finally hurdled the CA committee level on Tuesday after facing opposition from different individuals like Zamboanga del Sur Governor and former environment secretary Antonio Cerilles, and Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III in at least 7 hearings. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago opposed Soliman’s confirmation.

As for De Lima, the Wednesday hearing will only be her second. She admitted last week that she did not pay a courtesy call on CA members, going against what Senator Jinggoy Estrada called CA “tradition.” Estrada faces plunder charges and likely arrest over the pork barrel scam, which De Lima’s department investigated.

The other secretary who remains unconfirmed, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, has yet to be scheduled for hearing. Osmeña said he refuses to schedule Petilla because he is “unhappy” over his performance and handling of the country’s power problem.

Padaca hearing cancelled

Commission on Elections Commissioner Grace Padaca was scheduled for a confirmation hearing on Tuesday morning but the hearing was suddenly cancelled. A former Isabela governor and Aquino ally, Padaca was appointed two years ago. 

The staff of Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, CA committee on constitutional commissions and offices chairman, said there was “no reason” given for the cancellation.

“The CA as a collegial body decided to postpone it. No reason was given,” said Louie Belmonte, communications head at Guingona’s office.

Padaca appeared at the Senate last week for a scheduled hearing but it did not push through because the committee first tackled the appointment of Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza.

Guingona’s office has yet to announce when Padaca will again be scheduled for hearing.

Mendoza though is set to face the CA again on Wednesday. Estrada said he will ask the commissioner more questions.

The COA released an audit report also on the pork barrel scam but Mendoza has denied having any involvement in it.

A whistleblower on corruption in the military, Mendoza has said that her audit of Vice President Jejomar Binay and his wife during their terms as Makati mayor was the reason she is not yet confirmed after 3 years. – with a report from Michael Bueza/Rappler.com