'A waste of time': Duterte says he'll personally clear Cabinet execs' invites to Senate probes

President Duterte wants to personally approve or reject the invitations of Cabinet members who are summoned to appear at the Senate's public inquiries.

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his "Talk to the People" public briefing on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. It was aired Tuesday morning, Sept. 14. (Screenshot from Facebook live)

In his taped "Talk to the People" public briefing that was aired Tuesday morning, Sept. 14, Duterte sounded off on how the invited resource persons have wasted a lot of hours in these marathon hearings.

He also noticed how the investigating senators have been jumping from one issue to the next, specifically the alleged procurement of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE), to the involvement of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals, to links with the illegal drug trade.

"Mahirap yang ganun pinapatawag niyo pabalik-balik, tapos hindi naman ninyo na-uutilize yung testimony. So ganito ang proposal ko (You summon them to the hearings repeatedly, and yet you don't use the testimony. So here is my proposal). I will require that the Cabinet members invited to your hearings that he will clear the invitation with me," Duterte said.

"At kung tignan ko na pabalik-balik na lang (And if I see that it's redundant) with no other purpose except really to ramble on, to stretch the hearings because that is good for election until maybe the election itself, OK man yan (that is OK) because you are entitled to your own strategy," he said.

The Chief Executive called it a "waste of time" that Cabinet members have to make themselves available at these hearings that last for five to eight hours, even if they do nothing for the majority of the proceedings.

Duterte said these hearings prevent the government officials from managing their respective agencies. He cited Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III as an example.

"I am ordering Secretary Duque that the next time he is invited, he should clear the invitation to appear dito sa akin (with me) and I will decide. Nasabi na ni Secretary Duque yung kaya niyang...Ano pa ba gusto ninyo, pati kaluluwa ninyo hatakin? (Secretary Duque has said all that he can...What do you want from him, to suck out his soul?)" he asked, sarcastically.

"This time I will require every Cabinet member to clear with me any invitation and if I think that he will be called for walang silbi (a useless purpose), except to harassed, to be berated in front of the republic, eh hintuin ko na yan, mapagbawalan ko na (then I will put a stop to it, prohibit it)," Duterte stressed.

Duterte, a lawyer, noted that the senators have the option of citing the non-appearing govenrment officials in contempt. But he's confident that he can deal with this in his capacity as head of the executive branch.

"Ako na magsabi na ako ang may utos na hindi mag-attend (I will be the one to say that it was my order for him not to attend) I think I can do it as president, really is there is an abuse of authority there, or exceeding the authority of the reasonable time that Congress conducts a hearing.

"I will limit you to what you can do with the executive department of government. Dito sa (Here in the) executive department I am the head," underscored Duterte.

The President had earlier said that he would "extract" from the Senate government officials who end up getting detained by the lawmakers on ground of contempt.