President can’t bar Cabinet execs from Senate inquiry unless it involves national security or diplomatic relations—Robredo spox

Published October 3, 2021, 6:44 PM

by Raymund Antonio

President Duterte can’t bar Cabinet members from attending Senate inquiries without his clearance, the spokesman of Vice President Leni Robredo said on Sunday, October 3, citing a Supreme Court (SC) ruling to back his claim.

Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez noted the 2006 SC ruling of Senate vs Ermita that showed the Senate had the power to summon Cabinet members to attend congressional probes in aid of legislation.

(Vice President Leni Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez /Facebook)

“Kinlaro doon ng (It was clarified by the) Supreme Court hindi puwedeng ipagbawal ng Presidente ang pagdalo sa imbestigasyon ng Senado o ng Kamara dahil bahagi ito sa kapangyarihan ng (the President can’t bar them from attending a probe of Senate or House because it’s part of the power of the) legislative branch, iyon mag-conduct ng (to conduct) inquiries in aid of legislation,” he said during Robredo’s weekly radio show over dzXL.

During the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she issued Executive Order No. 464 requiring all department heads from the Executive branch to seek her approval before attending any congressional inquiry.

Her issuance of the EO came in light of the congressional investigation into her administration’s controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.

Gutierrez, a lawyer, argued Cabinet members can only be allowed not to attend Senate hearings if the issue being investigated has something to do with national security or diplomatic relations.

“Ang tanging exception dito ay kung mag-i-invoke siya ng personal na executive privilege at may kinalaman sa national security o diplomatic relations iyong issue na kaniyang i-a-assert (The only exception here is if he will invoke personal or executive privilege and if the issue he is asserting has something to do with national security or diplomatic relations) as covered by executive privilege,” he said.

But Robredo’s spokesman pointed out the matter that the Senate was looking into involved the alleged corruption in the procurement of medical supplies in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

Duterte, in a public address, asked the police and military not to arrest anyone ignoring the Senate’s subpoenas in its inquiry into the alleged overpriced medical supplies procured by the government, particularly the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS), from Pharmally, a newly minted company that bagged at least P10 billion worth of government contracts.

READ: Duterte to block Cabinet members from appearing in Senate probe

Duterte had ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to prepare the proper issuance to bar Cabinet officials from attending the investigation headed led by Senate blue ribbon committee, which Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon chairs.

The Chief Executive said he issued the order because Gordon has been using his powers in a “reckless manner.”