MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte backpedaled on his earlier comment that "lobby money" worked against former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, whose appointment was rejected last week by the Commission on Appointments.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte clarified during the Cabinet meeting on Monday evening that he did not necessarily mean that Lopez was rejected because money changed hands.
"We need to correct that. The President did say last night that when he said 'lobby', it’s not necessarily money. He corrected himself. He clarified himself,” Abella said in a news briefing.
"When he said 'lobby', people automatically assume that there was an exchange of money. He said basically, lobby is a legal thing that you can actually exercise in order to persuade one’s particular position."
In a speech last week, Duterte said Lopez's appointment as environment secretary was rejected by the powerful CA because "lobby money talks."
Duterte’s accusation did not sit well with some members of the CA, including Senator Panfilo Lacson, who voted against the confirmation of Lopez as environment secretary.
Lacson said Duterte’s allegation is a “sweeping assault” to the commission.
Abella said Duterte "gave a gloss on" his remark and said that what the president said “was not a pejorative accusation.”
"Nililinaw niya na it’s not necessarily a question of financial exchange, but that there was a lobby, a persuasion, legitimate pressure from interested parties,” Abella said in a separate interview with reporters.