Duterte: Cabinet members need my approval to attend Senate probes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Cabinet officials to seek his permission first before attending Senate investigations as he continued to criticize their inquiry.

He said he will allow them to attend if he deems it reasonable, but he will prohibit their attendance if it will be used to harass the officials in public.

"You can cite the person in contempt, pero ako ang magsabi na ako ang may utos na hindi mag-attend," Duterte said.

[Translation: You can cite them in contempt, but I will say that the order not to attend came from me.]

He added, "I think I can do it as president if there is an abuse of authority there. I will limit you to what you can do with the executive department."

His spokesperson Harry Roque said there could be a legal basis in preventing the Cabinet executives from attending Congressional inquiries.

The President said the hearings are taking too much time from the officials, specifically mentioning Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, but their testimonies are not being utilized.

Duterte criticized the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and its chairman Senator Richard Gordon for holding several hearings into the government's alleged anomalous purchase of pandemic resources. He said the lawmakers are "stretching" the investigation to benefit from it come 2022 elections.

He also said he will campaign against Gordon for being an "unfit" senator.

The President, meanwhile, said he was not interested in the fate of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals — a small supplier being scrutinized by lawmakers after it bagged billions of pesos in government contracts — since it was already able to deliver its requirements.

"You can crumple Pharmally. Wala kaming pakialam diyan. Ang pakialam namin nag-order kami, dumating, tama 'yung order, tapos ang presyo negotiated," he said.

[Translation: We don't care about them. What we care about is that we placed an order, they delivered it correctly, and we were able to negotiate the price.]

Senators have questioned how Pharmally Pharmaceutical won several contracts worth over ₱8 billion, including those awarded for the supply of alleged "overpriced" face masks and face shields, even though the company only had a paid-up capital of ₱625,000.