DOJ: Duterte memo of non-cooperation with Senate an act of protest, not defiance

Published October 6, 2021, 1:37 PM

by Mario Casayuran

The essence of President Duterte’s memorandum order banning government officials and employees from attending the public hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee was not meant to defy but to protest how the Senate committee has been conducting its hearings the past few weeks.

This was the stand of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on the President’s order as both the Chief Executive and Senator Richard J. Gordon, committee chairman, have been trading insults at each other over the Senate probe into the alleged ‘’premeditated plunder’’ at Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon recalled Senator Panfilo M. Lacson as viewing the Malacanang memorandum as ‘’Gordon specific memo.’’

Malacanang had chaffed at the long hours of its Cabinet officials wait to be questioned by senators for the past weeks instead of their attending to their functions and duties.

Asked by Drilon during a public hearing today by the Senate finance sub-committee ‘A’ chaired by Senator Juan Edgardo J. Angara whether he was consulted in the drafting or issuance of the memorandum order signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Guevarra replied in the negative.

The DOJ and its attached agencies were allotted P24.8 billion budget for 2022 in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) although it proposed P51.9 billion.

Nevertheless, its proposed 2022 budget is 7.4 percent higher than its current budget.

Queried whether the memorandum was valid, Guevarra said he would leave the constitutional issue on the fight between the Senate and the Executive branch to a third party.

During the hearing, Drilon, himself a former DOJ Secretary, commended Guevarra for maintaining the credibility of the DOJ.

Despite legal issues cropping up, Guevarra has kept his nose clean as he has been critical in the effectiveness of the rule of law, Drilon pointed out.

Guevarra said after almost two months of investigation by the Senate committee, there is a belief that it has already identified what measures to amend or to address.

By this time, that should be evident enough, he added.

Guevarra assured Drilon and other senators that the memorandum was not meant to defy congressional hearings.

Drilon told Guevarra that he was not going to debate with him as he stressed that the memorandum should be reviewed to avert a constitutional crisis.

He emphasized that the Senate does not intend to precipitate a constitutional crisis.

Guevarra told Drilon that he would follow his suggestion that he seeks out Medialdea for a review of the memorandum.

He said ‘’this is a two-way thing that requires adjustments on both sides.’’

Drilon said he would recommend to Gordon ‘’on the parameters of the inquiry’’ as long as it does not compromise the Senate’s inquiry in aid of legislation.’’

‘’I will keep my lines open,’’ he added.

Drilon stressed that he is not the spokesman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee but would endorse Guevarra’s opinion to Gordon so that there would be a reasonable regulation on how the committee would conduct its hearing.