Duterte on Senate probe on COVID-19 supplies: Do it after Christmas, elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 5) — President Rodrigo Duterte criticized senators anew for summoning his Cabinet officials to attend the ongoing investigation on the government’s purchase of COVID-19 supplies.

During his recorded speech aired Monday night, Duterte told legislators that if they want to continue with the probe, they can do so after Christmas or the elections.

“If you want to do it, hearing, even after Christmas or after elections if you want… Ang problema iyong tao ko lang. Iyong Pharmally, I said, gusutin ninyo ng hustohuwag mo lang isali ang mga tao ko,” he said.

[Translation: The problem is about my people. That Pharmally, I said, you can crush them all you want, just don’t include my people.]

The President said senators are not giving due respect towards Cabinet officials and wasting their time by summoning them for hearings, where sometimes they end up not being questioned at all.

He took aim anew at Senator Richard Gordon, who leads the probe as chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee.

“Gordon, you are not god and you cannot play god. You cannot continue this hearing ‘till kingdom come,” he said, reiterating that the senators should not compromise the government’s COVID-19 response by having concerned officials “tied up for so long” in their hearings.

Towards the end of his speech, Duterte signed the memorandum ordering the Executive department to ignore the Senate’s summons.

“The Senate is not a criminal court. Stop using it simply as a witch hunt,” the chief executive said.

Meanwhile, he thanked the House of Representatives "for conducting a neutral and unbiased hearing" and for terminating their proceedings early.

Last week, Duterte said he will issue the said memorandum to formally prohibit his Cabinet members from attending the Senate hearings. He also instructed the military and the police to ignore Gordon’s orders if he asks for their assistance.

In a statement, the Philippine Bar Association asked Duterte to recall the directive.

It pointed out that “directing officials of the Executive department to disobey summons issued by the Senate upsets our system of checks and balances and transgresses the doctrine of separation of powers among the three branches of government under our Constitution.”

It also said the order is detrimental to people “exacting public accountability” through elected officials in the Senate committee who are simply exercising their Constitutional power of legislative oversight.

As the commander-in-chief, Duterte’s order to the military and police is an “undue impairment of Legislative prerogatives and violates the doctrine of separation of powers,” the organization added.