'Duterte just fulminating,' Sotto says on threat to jail senators

Published October 7, 2021, 2:02 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III seemed unfazed by President Duterte’s threat to have senators arrested should they cite Cabinet officials for contempt in their legislative inquiries.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III bangs the gavel to resume their hybrid plenary session on May 17, 2021. (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

In his taped public address Wednesday night, October 6, Duterte directed members of his Cabinet to speak up and not to allow senators to insult them during Senate hearings. He said he would have senators arrested if officials are cited and detained for contempt.

“I’m taking it as the President is just fulminating,” Sotto said in a text message Thursday, October 7, when asked to comment on Duterte’s latest threat.

Sotto also maintained that chairpersons of Senate committee have the prerogative to make decisions during hearings according to the chamber’s rules.

“The chairpersons rule their committees in accordance with Senate rules. If anyone has any complaint on how hearings are conducted, there are ways to address it. We have the Committee on Rules to look into it if needed,” he added.

Duterte has issued a memorandum requiring heads of government agencies, including government-owned corporations, to seek clearance from him before attending hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

The panel has been investigating alleged irregularities in the medical supply procurements of the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly its award of multi-billion peso contracts to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

Senators accused the administration of giving undue preference to the start-up over local businesses severely-affected by the health crisis.

Still, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday that Duterte’s memorandum was not meant to defy the Senate’s hearings and trigger a constitutional crisis.

Both the executive department and the Senate should make adjustments, Guevarra opined.