Gordon and Drilon slam Duterte’s order barring Cabinet members from investigating Senate

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Saturday criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to bar Cabinet members from attending the Senate investigation into allegedly overpriced medical supplies for the nation’s pandemic response.

In a statement, Gordon said the only reason the president wants to ban appearances by Cabinet officials in the Blue Ribbon committee investigation is “to keep the truth from coming out.”

But Gordon said the president’s action “should be quite shocking to all well-meaning, country-loving citizens of our devastated land.”

“The president should be the very first person interested in finding out the truth about all the administration’s corrupt activities,” he said.

Gordon also noted that one of Duterte’s promises was to root out corruption.

“On the contrary, his current actions reveal that he will move heaven and earth to prevent the truth from coming to light, he acts as the primary advocate for those under investigation and those responsible for the plunder of our chests, and even those with blood on their hands for exacerbating disease and increasing the death toll due to the pandemic,” he added.

Gordon also questioned why Duterte doesn’t bother to shut down a “supposed” parallel investigation being conducted by the House of Representatives.

“But the Blue Ribbon Committee of the Senate of the Philippines will be resolute in its efforts to uncover the facts of this horrendous misconduct, in hopes of bringing justice to those involved in this shameless plunder,” the senator said.

Gordon also cited the Neri v. Blue Ribbon case in which the Supreme Court said the Constitution expressly grants the Senate and House of Representatives the power to conduct investigations in support of legislation.

“The legislature may conduct investigations not specifically to enact laws, but specifically to monitor the implementation of laws,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Drilon pointed out that Duterte’s order barring Cabinet members and executive officials from attending the Senate investigation into transactions made by the Department of Budget’s Procurement Service and of Management (PS-DBM) with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. is “unconstitutional.”

“The decision is clearly unconstitutional. The president cannot prevent members of the executive from testifying in the PS-DBM and Pharmally hearings to benefit the legislation. The Supreme Court ruled as such in a similar case in 2006,” Drilon said, referring to the Senate v. Ermita case.

It was Drilon, as President of the Senate in 2005, who took the case to the Supreme Court after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order 464 to prevent executive officials, Cabinet members and military officers to appear before the Upper House Inquiry into the North. Railway project.

Drilon noted that the only exception that allows cabinet members to be barred from investigations is executive privilege, which can only be asserted if the investigation has implications for national security or diplomatic secrets.

“This is a national security issue, a military secret and a diplomatic secret (theft is not a national security issue, nor a military or diplomatic secret),” Drilon said.

Norman D. Briggs