Duterte allows govt officials to attend Senate probe, but prefers 'sane' House inquiries

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he will allow Cabinet officials to continue attending the Senate's investigation into the government's alleged misuse of pandemic funds, but he prefers the probe conducted by lawmakers in the House of Representatives which he deems as impartial.

He said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. can attend the investigation at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee so they can complete their testimonies.

"Kung may itanong pa sila [If there are more questions], they should go back there. Pero ‘yung iba [But the others] and in the future, I'm sorry I will be the one who will say, go to Congress to testify or do not go to Congress. At sabihin mo kinontempt ka, ako bahala [And if you say you were cited in contempt, I’ll take care of it], I will not allow anybody to arrest you, that’s a guarantee," he said in a taped address that aired on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, Duterte ordered Cabinet officials to seek his permission first before attending Senate investigations as he continued to criticize the senators' inquiry into the funds of the Department of Health.

Duterte insisted Duque and Galvez are clean and can defend the government’s position that there was no corruption in the purchase of medical supplies, despite the findings of senators that it purchased overpriced face masks and face shields in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. He doubted, however, some of the senators’ integrity, especially Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon.

"Wala naman talaga kayong makuha even if we continue to hear this until kingdom come," he said. "Cabinet members ko wala iyan, puro malinis iyan. Ang mga senador meron. Gordon is one."

[Translation: You will not find anything there even if you continue the investigation until kingdom come. My Cabinet members are all clean. The senators are not. Gordon is one.]

As he continued to blast senators, he praised the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability which held a separate probe on Wednesday on the same DOH issues.

Duterte said the House panel gave resource persons a "fair chance" to be heard minus the "bullying" and "grandstanding," referring to the investigation led by Gordon in the Senate.

"It is the more sane inquiry kasi ang witnesses nakapagsalita ng kanilang totoong sagot [Witnesses were able to answer truthfully]. (It is) devoid of rudeness, bias, and partiality perpetrated by Gordon. It was an investigation that was not conclusive and based on facts as provided by the resource person," he said.

Some portions of the House hearing were aired during Duterte’s address to the nation, including the statement of Commission on Audit chairman Michael Aguinaldo that the audit report on the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) did not mention anything about overpricing.