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DECODE: ‘Hardworking’ Erwin Tulfo not enough to outsmart CA

by Malou Talosig-Bartolome

Recently updated on February 8, 2023 12:59 am

AFTER two consecutive bypasses by the Commission on Appointments, veteran broadcast journalist Erwin Tulfo is no longer a member of the Marcos Jr. Cabinet.

Instead, another former newsman, Eduardo Punay, has been named the officer-in-charge of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

Tulfo ‘action man’

Tulfo, one of the four maverick and hard-hitting Tulfo brothers, had been one of the most visible among Cabinet members.

When a strong Magnitude 7 earthquake struck northern Luzon in July, he was the first Cabinet Secretary to fly to Abra. He was even ahead of President Marcos.

Erstwhile DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo went in Bangued, Abra immediately after the Magnitude 7.0 quake | Photo Courtesy DSWD

While President Marcos was rumored to be out of town in October, it was Tulfo, together with Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos and Sen. Robin Padilla, who immediately met with leaders in Mindanao to assess the help needed for victims of Typhoon Paeng.

In his first few months in office, Tulfo took the bitter pill in limiting the number of 4Ps beneficiaries, and denying those who are using the cash benefits to fund their gambling and other illegal activities.

But passing the wringer of the CA requires more than being perceived as hardworking. 

You have to get the approval of Congress, which provides the checks and balances to the power of the President in choosing his Cabinet.


First things first, the technicalities.

Citizenship is the number one qualification.

“The Secretaries shall be citizens of the Philippines and not less than twenty-five years of age,” states the Executive Order No. 292 instituting the Administrative Code of 1987.

Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta questioned Tulfo’s citizenship during one of the CA’s confirmation hearings. He said based on CA’s background check, Tulfo was even enlisted in the US Army and served a tour of duty in Europe.

Later, Tulfo admitted to reporters that he used to be a naturalized US citizen. But in 2022, he renounced it.

Then another question begs to be answered: Did Tulfo swear allegiance again to the Republic of the Philippines after he renounced his US citizenship?

If he did, he has the right to be appointed in public office under Republic Act 9225. Section 5 of the RA 9225 said a natural-born Filipino who re-acquire Philippine citizenship may be appointed to any public office.

If not, then he is in trouble. He is technically stateless.

In 2017, another Cabinet member, Perfecto Yasay Jr., was bypassed by the powerful CA on citizenship issues as well.

Libel conviction

There is no hard and fast rule about disqualifying political appointees who are convicted of a crime.

However, the same Executive Order No. 292 said  “all officers in the Civil Service” shall be dismissed if convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude.”

Tulfo has been convicted of four counts of libel for lambasting a Customs officer in his column in Remate in 2008.

Marcoleta had said he supported Tulfo’s appointment but since the CA staff uncovered the conviction, he raised it on the floor. 

“As the Supreme Court enunciated in several cases, libel is an offense that involves moral turpitude. 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,” Marcoleta said.

Future of Tulfo in PBBM Administration

Tulfo may be one of the most popular Cabinet members of the Marcos administration. But clearly, CA deliberations are neither popularity contests nor judicial proceedings. CA confirmations are (not) as simple as that: political accommodation.

Atty. Cheloy Garafil, OIC of the Office of the Press Secretary, said there might be an announcement “soon” from the Palace on how else Tulfo can help the Marcos administration. As a good measure, he should be appointed to a position that does not require undergoing the CA inquisition once again.



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