Cabinet execs still willing to attend Senate hearings: Palace

Malacañang on Monday assured that Cabinet officials are still willing to attend Senate probe into the national government’s pandemic response despite the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to issue a memorandum that would limit their appearances.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after various business groups and universities called on public officials to cooperate in the ongoing probes, stressing that Filipinos deserved “a full and fair accounting” of how their money was spent for medical supplies in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said he had no knowledge about Duterte’s order to issue a memorandum but guaranteed that Cabinet officials, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, have no problem showing up at the Senate probes for purposes of “transparency.”

“Well, wala pa po akong naririnig na bagong balita tungkol diyan. Pero ang sabi po sa akin kanina ni Secretary Duque, he does not mind going to Congress dahil wala naman po siyang itinatago (I have not heard news about that. But Secretary Duque told me earlier that he does not mind going to Congress because he has nothing to hide),” he said in a press briefing in Angeles City, Pampanga.

Roque said the Duterte administration has always been “transparent”, citing how Duque has supposedly attended over 20 hearings in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

However, he said Duterte was simply frustrated over how much of Cabinet officials’ time was wasted when they should be attending to government efforts to address the prevailing health crisis.

“Ang sinasabi lang ni Presidente ngayon after 21 hearings siguro naman lubayan na natin itong mga kasama ko po ngayon na sila po ang namumuno ng ating response laban sa Covid (What the President is saying that after 21 hearings, perhaps it’s time they stop bothering the people in charge of our response against Covid),” he added. “Imbes na nagugugol nila ‘yung panahon nila at lakas doon sa kalaban natin na Covid, nauubos ang oras sa hearings na hindi ko po alam kung ano bang nais nilang malaman (Instead of using their time and strength in the fight against Covid, they’re wasting their time attending hearings that I don’t know what they want to find out).”

Roque maintained that the Senate should not hold in contempt Cabinet officials who ignore their summons to attend probes.

Citing again the High Court’s 2008 ruling on the case Romulo Neri vs. Senate, Roque said the Senate’s contempt power is limited.

“Hindi dapat sila i-hold in contempt dahil sila po alter ego and under the control and supervision ng Presidente. So hindi po nila kasalanan kung pagbabawalan sila ng Presidente (They should not be held in contempt because they are alter ego and under the control and supervision of the President. So it’s not their fault if they are barred by the President),” he said.

He also reiterated that there was “no overpricing” in the procurement of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a public address late Thursday night, Duterte said he will order the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) not to cooperate if the Senate threatened to hold in contempt members of the Cabinet who do not show up at their hearings.

He warned that there may be a “brewing constitutional crisis” caused by opposing positions from the executive and legislative branches of the government if Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Richard Gordon continued to overstep his jurisdiction.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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