For President Duterte, the way the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has been treating its resource persons is worse than being arrested during martial law.
"Akala ko ba ayaw ng mga taong Pilipinas ng martial law? Eh tignan mo yung ginagawa ng Senado ngayon (I thought the Filipino people didn't want martial law? Look at what the Senate is doing now). It is just more than a martial law," Duterte said during the pre-recorded "Talk to the People" public briefing on late Monday night, Sept. 27.
The Chief Executive was referring to the Senate's detention order against Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation Director Linconn Ong.
Chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, the particular Senate panel has been investigating the alleged purchase of overpriced coronavirus disease (COVID-19) supplies from Pharmally.
"Just piece of an advice....Sabi ko nga durugin na ninyo. Yung Pharmally durugin na ninyo (I've already told you to crush it. Crush Pharmally. Pero (But) not at the expense of the Constitutional rights of whoever is testifying there," Duterte said.
"Hindi ko dinedepensahan, nagsasalita lang ako bilang abugado, kasi nakikita ko dito sa briefer ko, kinulong na ninyo (I'm not defending him, I'm just speaking as a lawyer, because I see here in my briefer that you've already jailed him), Duterte said without mentioning Ong.
The Gordon-led panel has already ordered Ong's transfer from the Senate to the Pasay City Jail for his refusal to answer the senators’ inquiries about Pharmally's deals with the Philippine government.
"You have a preconceived notion of what is the correct answer, you get mad and threaten them with imprisonment...Alam mo na pala ang sagot, bakit ka pa mag-imbestiga? (Why would you investigate of you already know the answer?)," Duterte said, referring to the senators.
"Buti pa sa martial law, dalhin ka pa doon sa korte ng military (It was better during martial law, they take you to a military court). At least it's a court," the President said, obviously alluding to Marcos-era military courts during martial law.
"Before you were held before a military or a civilian as they wanted it to be at that time. But at least there is a court hearing and the person accused afforded the right to be heard. Yan ang importante dyan (that's the important thing)," he noted.
Incidentally, the 49th anniversary of late strongman President Ferdinand Marcos's declaration of martial law was observed last Sept. 21.
The government awarded Pharmally with pandemic response contracts worth nearly P8.68 billion in 2020, or when the COVID-19 first emerged in the Philippines.
Administration critics have linked Duterte to Pharmally via Davao City businessman Michael Yang. Yang, who allegedly is involved with Pharmally, is the President’s former economic adviser.
Duterte further said of the Senate's order to detain Ong: "You cannot assume altogether that he is lying. That would be a cockeyed view of what a hearing should be."
"So ang human rights, gusto kong marinig kung ano ang inyong sinasabi (I want to hear what the human rights people are saying). The Constitution really provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law.
"Is there a due process of law if you already have the preconceived answer and it does not dovetail your frame of mind, you send him to jail?...Is that how a civilized Congress works? Takutan ba ito (Is this all about threats?)" He further asked.