IBP asks Duterte to recall memo vs officials’ appearance in Senate’s COVID funds probe

Published October 6, 2021, 9:06 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)

This time, the country’s official organization of lawyers – the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – has urged President Duterte to recall his memorandum that bars Cabinet officials, among others, from complying with the Senate’s summons to attend its inquiry on government’s spending for COVID-19.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, Oct. 5, the IBP said: “It is only by granting our Congress free access to information that we can empower them to formulate policies that fully reflect the will of our people.”

It said that in 2006, the Supreme Court (SC) had ruled that “ultimately, the power of Congress to compel the appearance of executive officials… find their basis in the principle of separation of powers.”

It pointed out that the SC had also declared that “while the executive branch is a co-equal branch of the legislature, it cannot frustrate the power of Congress to legislate by refusing to comply with its demands for information.”

Last Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Philippine Bar Association, the country’s oldest organization of lawyers, assailed as unconstitutional the directive of the President for members of the executive department to ignore the summons issued by the Senate, particularly by its Blue Ribbon Committee.

PBA also blasted the President’s directive to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and other uniformed services to ignore the warrants of arrest that may be issued in the course of the committee’s inquiry.

“We appeal for President Duterte, a brother in the legal profession, to immediately recall his twin directives that in our view constitute clear violations of our Constitution,” the PBA pointed out.

Also in its statement, the IBP said: “We thus urge the President to reconsider his decision to bar his Cabinet from attending the Senate investigation on the alleged irregularities in the Department of Health (DOH) spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic program.

It stressed that corruption should be measured “not just in the billions of pesos of our taxpayers’ money lost to government malfeasance, but more importantly, in the deficiency of effective healthcare and medicine that could have saved the lives of many of our countrymen, as well as financial assistance to households and businesses in distress due to the pandemic.”

IBP appealed to both the executive and legislative departments “for calm, sobriety, and unity among its agencies, and for the same to cooperate and work together to combat corruption and abuse.”

“It is imperative for our government to fight corruption, wherever it maybe, and to assist, rather than obstruct, any investigation that seeks to identify the root of corruption and the perpetrators behind them,” it said.

It reminded that a “transparent government” is “one of the hallmarks of a truly republican state.”

“The only way to succeed is for all branches of government to work together in combating corruption and abuse,” it added.

In a memorandum dated last Oct. 4, the President directed all officials and employees of the executive department to no longer appear before the hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee “effective immediately.”

“Instead, they shall focus all their time and effort on the implementation of measures to address the current State of Calamity on account of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease), and in carrying out their other functions,” the memorandum stated.