The Commission on Appointments on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Roland Cafe Pondoc as commissioner of the Commission on Audit but suspended the confirmation of Agrarian Reform Secretary John Rualo Castriciones due to questions over his track record and capability to lead a government agency.
The powerful bicameral congressional body also gave its nod to the nominations of 19 senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including Navy Chief Rear Adm. Robert Empedrad, who replaced Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado who was sacked over the P16-billion frigate deal.
Also confirmed were 18 other officers, including nine reserve officers—three of incumbent public officials: Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Francis Tolentino, Davao Oriental Rep. Joey Mayo Almario, and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.
The CA’s committee on constitutional commissions and offices chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar had earlier recommended Bondoc’s confirmation due to the absence of any oppositor.
Castriciones’ nomination was opposed by Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin who told him as a secretary, he should have the special training and track record to head the agency.
“If you are a secretary, you should hit the ground running on day one. Without the necessary qualification, such appointee not be able to do so. There are farmer-beneficiaries who I have personally talked to have written the DAR secretary about the implementation of their certificates of land ownership [ award] (CLOA) but no action has been taken,” Villarin said.
But Castriciones, who replaced former Agrarian Reform chief Rafael Mariano, whose appointment was rejected by the CA, debunked Villarin’s claim that he is not qualified for the post.
According to Castriciones, a lawyer, he had handled agrarian reform cases in the past and that he advised his provincemates in Nueva Ecija about their agrarian reform issues.
“I am qualified for the position as most of the functions in the department as secretary does not necessary need for you to be a farmer to understand. We have to dwell on matters that are legal in nature and that is probably the reason cases have filed up,” he insisted.
Castriciones also emphasized that he belongs to a family of farmers. “In my practice as lawyer I have given advices to my provincemates and my law students who are now lawyers and judges.”
Senator Manny Pacquiao came to the defense of Castriciones, who also served as DILG undersecretary, and stressed that “he should be given the chance to prove his worth” and capability as agrarian reform secretary.
Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the CA’s agrarian reform committee, directed Castriciones to submit a list of the agrarian reform cases he had handled and their dispositions.
Castriciones said the DAR is now handling 14,000 cases. He likewise pointed out that it will be a bit difficult for DAR to decide on these matters if the person who sits does not have any legal background.
Meanwhile, Tolentino was appointed to the rank of Brigadier General at the Armed Forces of the Philippines while Almario and Bautista were promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to the rank of Colonel at the Philippine Air Force; and from Colonel to the rank Brigadier General of the Philippine Army, respectively.