Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chief Senator Richard Gordon on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte can be charged for inciting to sedition and possibly even grave coercion for his role in the questionable P8-billion COVID-19 pandemic supply contract entered into by the government with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation in 2020.
Gordon, however, said he believes there is no time for any administrative or criminal charges to be filed against the President to prosper as the whole country is about to enter the campaign period for the May 2022 national elections.
But as soon as he steps down from being president and becomes an “ordinary citizen,” the Office of the Ombudsman, other departments or any private citizen may initiate the filing of legal proceedings against Duterte.
“There is no blanket rule that he cannot be charged; he can be charged by the Ombudsman but there is no more time. Inabot na tayo ng ganito (We have reached this point),” Gordon said in an online press conference.
“So pagtapos nitong (18th) Congress, he would be an ordinary citizen, and to the other people who have committed crimes in this country, the long arm of the law will eventually catch up with whomever is guilty,” he stressed.
Gordon, on Tuesday, Feb. 1 finally released the Senate blue ribbon panel’s partial committee report on its marathon hearings on the government’s controversial procurement of overpriced and substandard COVID-19 supplies from Pharmally Corp. a company which only had a paid-up capital of P625,000.
The panel recommended filing of graft and corruption charges and other liabilities against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former Department of Budget and Management (DBM ) Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao, several high-ranking executives of Pharmally, as well as some prominent Chinese businessmen.
The report included recommending the deportation of Michael Yang, Duterte’s ex-economic adviser, and whom the president repeatedly defended over the course of the Senate’s probe.
In the 113-page report, Gordon said Duterte committed “betrayal of public trust” when he appointed Yang, a mainland Chinese national who was his long-time friend and who financed Pharmally.
“It is difficult to believe that President Duterte was oblivious to what transpired. The financier of Pharmally is his longtime friend, Michael Yang, a Mainland Chinese national who held an appointment as a presidential economic adviser,” Gordon said.
“All of the government officials who approved the transactions are or were presidential appointees, many of whom had long- standing relationships with the President whether as an election-supporter, fraternity brother, or consultant in his previously held offices,” he added.
Inciting to sedition, grave coercion
Asked what specific charges could be filed against Duterte once he steps down from his post, Gordon said the President may be held liable for inciting to sedition and possible grave coercion.
“Di ba? (He kept saying) huwag kayong pumunta diyan (sa Senado), huwag kayo maniwala diyan (don’t believe them)... That is inciting to sedition,” Gordon pointed out.
“Inexcusable negligence of duty (can also be filed against him). Bakit mo nilagay si (Why put) Michael Yang alam mong (you know he is a) Chinese citizen yan, ilalagay mo sa (you are putting him in the) corridor of power?...Pinapasok mo yung ahas sa poultry, yan ang nangyari dyan eh, (You allowed the snake to enter the poultry fence..that’s what happened here),” the senator added.
Gordon also said Duterte should be held liable for breach of official duty and grave coercion for not respecting constitutional bodies particularly when he disrespected the Senate and its mandate as a co-equal branch, for threatening the Commission on Audit (COA) which found out about the anomalous procurement, for barring Cabinet officials from attending the Senate panel’s investigation.
“Tinatakot niya yung COA...Tinatakot niya yung mga senador, yung panglalait... sedition yun eh (He threatened the COA, he threatened senators, he insulted them...that’s sedition)...preventing a lawfully government constituted body from defending their lawful duty,” he pointed out.
“The President as Chief Executive should have known what was going on under his nose. If he did not, he surely became aware of it when the investigation was underway. But when the anomalies were brought to light in the Senate, the President, instead of getting to the bottom of the situation and punishing those responsible, unleashed fury at and threatened the Senate and the senators, erected obstacles in the course of the investigation, and committed grave abuse of power by preventing the appearance and cooperation of officials from the executive department,” Gordon stressed.
“Worse, he repeatedly and publicly defended and protected those closest to him who had been found to have dipped their fingers into the coffers of the nation at a time when our people were suffering and still are,” he added.
“Unfortunately, the President’s own behavior leaves us to conclude nothing less than that he was aware of, allowed, and condoned the misdeeds of his closest associates and appointees. For this, he must be held accountable,” the lawmaker reiterated.