Gordon and Drilon slam Duterte’s order barring Cabinet members from participating in Senate inquiry

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Saturday criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to ban Cabinet members from attending the Senate inquiry on allegedly too expensive medical supplies for the country’s response to the pandemic.

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

But Gordon said the president’s action “should be quite shocking to all good-hearted citizens who love their country in our devastated land.”

“The president should be the very first person interested in uncovering the truth about all the corrupt activities of the administration,” 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 revelation of the truth, he is acting as the primary advocate for those under investigation and for those responsible for the looting of our coffers, and even those with blood in their hands for exacerbating disease and increasing the number of deaths from the pandemic, ”he added.

Gordon also wondered why Duterte didn’t bother to stop a “supposed” parallel investigation by the House of Representatives.

“But the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will be resolute in its efforts to uncover the facts of this horrific misconduct, hoping to do justice to those involved in this blatant plunder,” the senator said.

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

“The legislature can conduct investigations not specifically to enact laws, but specifically to oversee the implementation of laws,” he said.

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

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

It was Drilon, as Senate Speaker in 2005, who brought the case to the Supreme Court after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Decree 464 to bar executive officials, Cabinet members and military officers to appear before the upper house’s inquiry into the North. Railway project.

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

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

Norman D. Briggs