Palace: Duterte has legal basis to bar Cabinet execs to appear in Senate probes

Malacañang said on Tuesday, September 14, that President Duterte’s plan to require members of his Cabinet to secure clearance from him before they attend Senate hearings has legal basis.

President Rodrigo Duterte (Malacañang photo)

In his virtual presser, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Chief Executive can issue an executive order that requires Cabinet officials to get prior presidential consent before facing any Senate probe.

He was referring to Executive Order No. 464, issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005, 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.

Apart from this, the spokesperson also cited a Supreme Court decision to make his point that Cabinet members cannot be cited in contempt if the President directed them not to appear in Senate probes.

“Talagang hindi dapat i-contempt kapag hindi po pina-attend sa isang hearing ang isang miyembro ng Gabinete alinsunod po sa pag-uutos ng Presidente mismo (A Cabinet member can’t be cited in contempt if is he/she doesn’t attend a hearing upon the directive of the President himself) because they are alter egos of the President,” Roque, a lawyer, said.

“There is legal basis for that kung gagawin po iyan ng Presidente (if the President will do that,” he added.

On Monday, September 13, Duterte said he will require Cabinet members to get a clearance from him first before attending Senate inquiries since Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials have wasted so much time in the hearings.

READ: 'A waste of time': Duterte says he'll personally clear Cabinet execs' invites to Senate probes

He lamented some resource persons, especially those from the Executive department, have attended marathon hearing for hours but were not given a chance to give their testimonies.

“Mahirap ‘yang ganun pinapatawag niyo pabalik-balik, tapos hindi naman ninyo na-uutilize yung testimony. So ganito ang proposal ko (You summon them to the hearings repeatedly, and yet you don’t use the testimony. So here is my proposal). I will require that the Cabinet members invited to your hearings that he will clear the invitation with me,” Duterte said in his taped public address aired on Tuesday.

Asked what’s the President’s criteria for allowing the presence of a Cabinet official in a Senate probe, Roque said the inquiry should be “in aid of legislation” and not “in aid of election.”

“Kinakailangan iyong imbestigasyon ay in aid of legislation. Kapag malinaw po na in aid of election eh hindi na po iyan dapat payagan ng Ehekutibo (The investigation should be done in aid of legislation. If it’s clear it is in aid of election, that should not be allowed by the Executive department),” he said.