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Duterte keen to answer legality prohibiting  Cabinet Members  from attending  Senate Committee meetings

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(File photo)


MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said he is "most eager" to answer the legality of his order prohibiting executive branch officials, particularly Cabinet members, from attending the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings on the alleged overpriced procurement of medical supplies against Covid-19.


During the prerecorded "Talk to the People" aired Monday night, Duterte welcomed the move of the Senate Blue Ribbon's panel to challenge before the Supreme Court (SC) the legality of his order.


"If you remember I have a memorandum prohibiting the Cabinet members and all executive officials appearing in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing without my permission," Duterte said.


Over the past three months, the committee panel, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, has been conducting motu proprio inquiry into the procurement of the medical supplies through private firm Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation at the onset of the pandemic last year.


On Oct. 4, Duterte signed the memorandum for all officials and employees of the Executive Department to ignore the summons of the Senate panel.


“On the premise that the principle of separation of powers requires mutual respect among the different branches of government, and in view of Article II, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution on the protection and promotion by the State of right to health of the people, the President has directed all officials and employees of the Executive Department to no longer appear before or attend the abovementioned Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, effective immediately,” the memo read.


Gordon said Duterte’s memorandum “restrained" the Legislative Branch from performing its work.


"At last, the members of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee have finally seen the light. We welcome this move of bringing the legality of the memorandum to the Supreme Court and we would like to congratulate the members for realizing--albeit late--that (it) is the court, which should eventually decide on the constitutionality of the order. And we will defend it," Duterte said.


Duterte said executive officials attending the hearings must wait for a long time but are not even called to talk, "and sometimes, they are being insulted instead of being probed."


"This is not a feudal time. You must be courteous. If you want to be treated with courtesy, you must practice it," he said.


Duterte said his “disagreement” with the Senate Blue Ribbon panel may be settled in the Supreme Court.


"But we are not saying that we have the best minds here. It is the question of the law and an issue of law, and you know – it could go either way. You win, you lose," he said, referring to his memorandum.


Duterte noted that "this is by far the most decent thing" the committee has done.


"We are most eager to answer whatever question you have regarding my not allowing officials of the executives to attend your hearing that are legislative purposes," he said.


In his previous Talk to the People, Duterte said there is “no way” he will withdraw the memo and dared the Senate to challenge the document before the Supreme Court.


Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he would challenge the memorandum before the high court for all "the red flags of unconstitutionality". (PNA)


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