Thursday, June 21, 2007

Commission on Appointments confirmation costs P5 M

Outgoing Negros Oriental Rep. Herminio Teves has opened can of worms in the Commission on Appointments. It appears that House Speaker Jose De Venecia is tolerating such CA confirmation bribery. The 14th Congress should oust traditional politico Rep. Jose De Venecia. The country needs competent and progressive leader in the House of Representatives.

CA confirmation costs P5 M – Teves

The Philippine Star

A Cabinet member who wants to be confirmed by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) has to shell out at least P5 million to win confirmation, outgoing Negros Oriental Rep. Herminio Teves disclosed Thursday.

Teves told reporters that he has personal knowledge of the corrupt practice of some CA members – who he clarified were congressmen, not senators – because his son Finance Secretary Margarito Teves was one of the victims of these lawmakers.

Teves said he informed some senators about the congressmen’s demand and that the senators were surprised.

Meanwhile, the lone opposition member in the CA House contingent, Rep. Rolex Suplico, dared Congressman Teves to name names.

“He should identify those he claims to have asked for money or other concessions, in fairness to the congressmen sitting in the CA,” Suplico said.

The elder Teves said his colleagues had asked him if his son could come up with the amount needed so the Cabinet member could get confirmed.

“I told them that Gary (Secretary Teves’ nickname) would never give in to their demand. After hearing that, they asked me if I could give them the money,” the 87-year-old Teves, who is ending his nine years as a House member on June 30, recounted.

“I told them that I could come up with the amount they needed to confirm my son, but asked if they were not ashamed to demand and accept money from their own colleague. They never came back to me,” he said.

Teves said another victim was Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri.

He met Neri by chance at a restaurant on Wednesday night and they talked about the problems Neri and Secretary Teves encountered in the CA confirmation process.

“Secretary Neri complained that members of the House contingent in the CA demanded P5 million from him, and that he reported the matter to Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.,” he disclosed.

Both Neri and Secretary Teves have been bypassed by the CA, which has the power to confirm or reject Cabinet appointments and major promotions in the military and diplomatic service.

Rep. Teves said even generals seeking confirmation for their promotions are being asked to pay huge amounts.

He said some congressmen who demanded money from Cabinet members and generals ran in the May 14 elections but lost.

Others were third-term House members like him who were not qualified to seek re-election but who fielded their wives in their districts to be their successors. Unfortunately, their wives lost, he said.

Reached by The STAR for comment, Neri confirmed that he indeed had a chance meeting with Congressman Teves on Wednesday night.

“We discussed the delay in the confirmation process, but I did not tell him CA members demanded money from me. I can however admit that I complained to the Speaker about such delay,” he said.

Rep. Teves’ revelation is the first confirmation of rumors floating that some CA members, particularly those coming from the House of Representatives, have been demanding concessions, in cash or in kind, but usually in cash, from those seeking approval for their appointments or promotions.

Concessions in kind include contracts for supplies or infrastructure projects, use of equipment and facilities, including planes, free transportation and fuel, including aviation gas, and appointment quotas for relatives, friends and protégés.

Another Cabinet member who did not win CA confirmation was former agriculture secretary Domingo Panganiban. There were reports that certain members of the House contingent were demanding P5 million to P10 million worth of projects for each of them.

Panganiban was not confirmed and President Arroyo eventually

gave back the agriculture portfolio to Arthur Yap.

The CA is a 25-member constitutional body chaired by the Senate president, with the head of the House contingent as its vice chairman. There are 12 senators and 12 congressmen in the commission.

The House contingent is headed by Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., who lost in his senatorial bid. Its members are Reps. Jesus Jurdin Romualdo of Camiguin, Eduardo Veloso of Leyte, Marcelino Libanan of Eastern Samar (now immigration commissioner), Prospero Amatong of Compostela Valley, Manuel Ortega of La Union, Rafael Nantes of Quezon, Antonino Roman of Bataan, Aurelio Umali of Nueva Ecija, Victor Sumulong of Antipolo City, Harlin Habayon of Northern Samar and Rolex Suplico of Iloilo.

Suplico, the lone opposition congressman in the House contingent, urged Rep. Teves to name names.

Asked about a meeting the House contingent had with Rep. Teves, Secretary Teves, then Internal Revenue Commissioner Jose Buñag, and Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales late last year, Suplico admitted he attended such a conference.

“I came late and left after complaining to Secretary Teves about an anomalous loan the Land Bank branch in Iloilo extended to the provincial government,” he said. He and Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas are political enemies.

Suplico, who won as Iloilo vice governor in last month’s elections, said he heard nothing from his colleagues because he stayed only for a short while in the meeting.

The STAR had learned that the meeting was held at a restaurant owned by Libanan and located in a building fronting the ABS-CBN complex in Quezon City. Discussed was Secretary Teves’ confirmation. It was not known why Buñag and Morales were also present.

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