Libel cases, citizenship derail Erwin’s CA nod

Photograph by Alfonso Padilla for the Daily Tribune @tribunephl_al Roadblock Erwin Tulfo’s confirmation as Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary has been deferred by a Commission on Appointment panel on Tuesday.

The Commission on Appointment panel on Tuesday has deferred the deliberation of Erwin Tulfo’s appointment confirmation as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Tulfo’s previous enlistment in the United States Army and his libel conviction were raised during the deliberation.

During the CA committee on labor, employment, social welfare, and migrant workers’ hearing, SAGIP Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta said Tulfo has been convicted four times due to criminal libel by the Pasay Regional Trial Court.

In his defense, Tulfo said the conviction case was related to his profession as a journalist.

“There was a conviction, that’s correct.

Because of my line of work as a journalist. It’s four counts of libel, same individual your honor,” Tulfo said, explaining that the case was about his columns against a government official.

He recalled being compelled by the court to divulge his source but he refused to do so. Hence, the case went up to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

“The problem we’re trying to press out here Mr. Chair is whether or not his conviction will be an issue in the process of his confirmation,” Marcoleta said, emphasizing that the libel “is an offense that involves moral turpitude.”

He added: “In some other cases disposed of by the Supreme Court, there were certain people who were disqualified from holding positions because they have been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude — this is the dilemma, Mr. Secretary.”

Marcoleta, however, stressed that he supports Tulfo’s confirmation as the DSWD chief.

“You have already succeeded in proving to the people that you are qualified, but this is the problem that you need to thresh out. How do we dispose of this dilemma before us? Because it is in the report,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero said there are many pending bills in both chambers of Congress, seeking to decriminalize libel.

“If this will be taken against the nominee and later on, that bill is approved by Congress, I think it would be prejudicial, to say the least, and unfair if we would be taking that against him,” Escudero said, asking the consideration of the committee before the caucus.

In the same hearing, Caloocan Rep. Oscar Malapitan asked Tulfo about the status of his Filipino citizenship when he joined the United States Army way back in 1988.

“It’s about your being an enlisted personnel of the United States Army for several years and you have been in active military service stationed in Europe from 1992 to 1996,” Malapitan said.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but to me, an enlisted personnel in the US Army, you are a citizen by birth. You are a US citizen, or you have acquired your citizenship by naturalization,” he added.

The CA deliberation on Tulfo’s issues continued to the executive session resulting in the deferment of the latter’s appointment confirmation.

Go supports Tulfo’s confirmation

Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his support for the ad interim appointment of Tulfo as DSWD secretary.

Go said the DSWD plays an important role in alleviating the plight of the poor.

“I only have one request for Secretary Tulfo, take care of the poor, the helpless and the hopeless, those who have nowhere to go. I know that you have a heart for the poor,” Go said in Filipino.

He urged Tulfo to prioritize the welfare of those in need, much the same way when former President Rodrigo Duterte provided support to 1.12 million individuals through the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program.

“If there are leaks in the implementation, let us plug the holes and make sure (the program) reaches the right beneficiaries who need government attention the most,” he said.
Go said he has known Tulfo even when the latter was still a broadcaster.

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