Senators unfazed by Duterte remarks vs Senate inquiries

Published September 3, 2021, 3:49 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators will not be deterred by President Duterte’s statements that they should not be investigating ongoing programs of government.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III bangs the gavel signifying the start of the plenary session on November 24, 2020.(Henzberg Austria/Senate PRIB)

“The Senate is simply doing its job. The gov[ernmen]t offices have nothing to worry about if they are doing nothing wrong!” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a text message to sent to reporters.

The Senate leader already said the Blue Ribbon Committee cannot be prevented from investigating the anomalies in the Department of Health’s (DOH) disbursement of COVID-19 response funds, saying they may call a separate hearing on the new issues that have cropped up from their legislative inquiries.

But Sotto clarified that the upper chamber is mostly investigating “issues of the past” and those “not ongoing”.

“I will not allow skirmishes to derail important pieces of legistation,” he also vowed.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also rejected Duterte’s remarks that their hearings cause delays in government projects.

The pandemic, she added, should not be made a reason to skirt procurement laws and other regulations.

“Hindi dahil nasa ‘state of emergency’ ang bansa ay babawasan natin ang prosesong nagbabantay sa kaban ng bayan. Bagkus, dahil nga pandemic at maraming emergency purchases, we need more and better, not less and weaker mechanisms para sa accountability (Just because the country is in a ‘state of emergency’ we will ease the processes that will protect the people’s money. Especially with the pandemic and there are emergency purchases, all the more that we need more and better, not less and weaker mechanisms, for accountability),” Hontiveros said.

“Speed should not do away with built in protection mechanisms. Hindi yan mutually exclusive,” she pointed out.

“Wala pong kailangang ikabahala ang mga kawani na nananatiling tapat sa serbisyo, lalu na’t ibinibigay naman ng COA ang lahat ng pagkakataon para isa-ayos habang maaga ang mga sabit ayon sa audit. Walang dapat ikatakot kung above board ang mga transactions (Officials who remain honest do not have to worry, especially the Commission on Audit gives them the opportunity to settle issues in their audits. They should not be afraid if the transactions are above aboard),” Hontiveros said.

Duterte has defended the DOH from claims of irregularities in the purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has criticized senators for digging up issues in his administration’s procurements.