Opposition chides Duterte for move to ban Cabinet from attending Senate inquiry

Published October 1, 2021, 3:53 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Opposition senators on Friday, Oct. 1, slammed President Duterte’s plans to block officials in his Cabinet from attending hearings in the Senate.

Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan (MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Senator Francis Pangilinan said Duterte was “desperately trying to cover up” the alleged irregularities in his administration’s purchase of medical supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Lalo lang mag-iisip ang tao na may pilit na itinatagong katiwalian. Lalo lang sila mababaon (All the more people will think that there is an attempt to cover up corruption. All the more they will fall),” Pangilinan said in a text message sent to reporters.

He, however, believed that barring Cabinet members from appearing in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s inquiry would be futile “because the damning testimonies that have exposed the massive corruption have come from the testimonies of non-Cabinet officials and from the ordinary citizens.”

“The truth will still be uncovered even if the members of the Cabinet refuse to attend,” he added.

“The ban will do Malacañang more harm than good,” Pangilinan maintained.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also said that it would be “illegal” should Duterte push through with issuing an order directing his Cabinet members, as well as the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military to ignore the Senate’s summons and arrest orders.

“Pambihira namang utos iyan. Alam po natin na sa PNP at Armed Forces, laan po silang sumunod sa mga legal na utos (What kind of order is that? We all know that the members of the PNP and the Armed Forces are duty-bound to obey legal orders),” Hontiveros said in a video message.

“Never na pinigilan ng Senado, or ng Kongreso, ang Presidente na gawin ang kanyang mga tungkulin sa ilalim ng Konstitusyon, bakit sa halip siya naman ay pinipilayan ang trabaho ng Senado, lalo na mga importanteng pagdinig ng Blue Ribbon Committee tungkol sa graft and corruption (The Senate, and even the entire Congress, never prevented the President from doing his mandates under the Constitution, so why is Duterte curtailing the Senate’s powers, especially in the Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation of graft and corruption)?” she also stressed.

She also alluded to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling which upheld the right of Congress to compel the appearance of executive officials in inquiries in aid of legislation.

“Parang kinalimutan ng Presidente ‘yong ruling ng Korte Suprema tungkol sa mga limitasyon sa mga ganyang klase ng executive privilege (The President seems to have forgotten the ruling of the Supreme Court about the limitation of such executive privilege),” Hontiveros told Duterte.

“Nakakahiya kung ang Presidente, ang executive, ang magiging dahilan na mababawasan ng bisa ang trabahong dapat lang ginagawa ng Senado (It would be a shame if the President, the executive, will be the reason for diminishing the Senate’s mandates),” she added.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima also weighed in on the issue.

“Iba talaga kapag Duterte Law Office ang abogado mo, hawak pati PNP at AFP (What a privilege to have the Duterte Law Office as your counsel, it even controls the PNP and AFP),” a statement posted on her official Twitter account read.

Senator Richard Gordon, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, previously chided Duterte for supposedly lawyering for individuals involved in the government’s contracts with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, including his former adviser Michael Yang and resigned budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao.

Earlier Friday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the upper chamber will continue to respect the executive department even if Duterte would issue such orders.