Duterte airs threat, mocks Gordon’s girth, Lacson’s hair
MANILA, Philippines — Angered by the “all talk” Senate blue ribbon hearings, President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to bar Cabinet members and other officials of the executive branch from appearing in the chamber’s inquiries.
The president is particularly miffed at Senators Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson and took potshots at them in his Monday-night “Talk to the People on COVID-19” that was aired on Tuesday.
He said the hearings were being used for political mileage and not to ferret out the truth in the government transactions being questioned.
“They’re all talk. They just want to be prominent because it’s election already. That is why I ask the people, don’t reelect these senators because they will just keep on talking and showing off,” Duterte said.
He went on to criticize the two senators’ hairstyles and picked at Gordon, the chair of the blue ribbon committee, for being overweight and a “Chinese hater.”
Gordon expressed dismay that the President was venting his ire on senators and not calling out his men for their supposed involvement in the questionable purchase of medical supplies and equipment.
“Why is he now mad at the [Commission on Audit]?” Gordon said in an online press briefing. “Why is he castigating the Senate? Why can he not tell his men, ‘You seem to have bought overpriced [medical supplies], you have to explain this’?”
Lacson told reporters in a Viber message that Duterte appeared to be on “panic mode.”
The senator added: “I don’t know what President Duterte is talking about when he comments on my hairstyle. I haven’t changed the way I comb my hair since long before he lost his mind.”
‘I will extract you’
Duterte said he would not allow Cabinet members and other officials to be treated badly in the hearings and accused the senators of provoking a crisis by misusing the power of legislative inquiries.
He recalled having advised military officials appearing in Senate inquiries to quietly rise and leave if they were disrespected and that he would get them out if they were detained for contempt.
“Same here with my [appointees],” he said. “If you disrespect them the way you are treating [Health Secretary Francisco Duque III] — he cannot even answer, cannot even complete his answer without being interrupted — [I will tell them]: You stand up. If you get fed up, you just stand up. If you are cited for contempt and get jailed, I will find a way to get you. In 24 hours, I will extract you.”
Duterte said the investigation was malicious, with Gordon turning it into a “talk-a-thon” that he could monopolize.
“The problem in this inquiry is it reeks with malice,” he said. “You have already passed judgment on the people you have called [to] the committee hearing. You ask questions and you also answer. You would not even let the person answer because you’re so talkative.”
He compared Gordon to a “Nazi interrogator” and deplored the senator’s “nasty practice” of depriving other senators of the chance to speak.
The president said it was okay that Gordon “simply wants to talk and show off to the world that he is a bright boy.”
However, he said, due to their lengthy interrogations, he was getting dizzy watching Gordon and Lacson and their “strange” hairstyles.
“My advice to you is to lose weight so that….” Duterte said, trailing off. “I get dizzy when I look at you… It’s true, even your hairdo is strange, both you and Ping.”
The president also accused Gordon and other senators of anti-Chinese prejudice for questioning the government deals entered into by businessman Michael Yang.
‘Are you honest?’
“That’s the problem with you, especially Gordon. He is afflicted with Sinophobia. He hates the Chinese, I don’t know why. Because he’s an American [supporter],” Duterte said.
The president said he would soon disclose anomalies involving his critics such as Lacson.
“We will expose everything,” he said. “The people might say that you are the only ones who know how to be honest. Really? I ask Panfilo Lacson: Are you honest? … If you say yes, I will answer you… I will show something.”
Duterte said Lacson’s own critics had visited Malacañang “to provide documents” now being studied.
He said he would counter any untrue allegation of corruption in his administration: “The people might say we’re involved. That cannot be allowed. You cannot have your way every time. I will keep on answering you and if you produce documents, I will also produce documents. We will let the people listen.”
Asked to comment on Duterte’s remarks, Lacson said the Senate would not back down.
“It is not difficult to think that he is [on] panic mode and is attempting, as he has already done earlier, to discourage the Senate from pursuing our investigation of the highly anomalous procurement of overpriced medical supplies that is starting to knock on the doors of Malacañang,” Lacson said, adding:
“But make no mistake. The Senate will not flinch on this one. There is a lot more to discover and pursue so that all those responsible for this abominable crime against the
Filipino people who continue to suffer amid the pandemic will be exposed and charged in court at the proper time.”
Gordon said Duterte should not stop members of his Cabinet from attending the Senate inquiry.
“Mr. President, I advise you as a friend, if you still consider me a friend: Let your people answer the issues lodged before them,” Gordon said.
Referring to Duterte’s “insults,” he said: “Why would you now say I am fat? I already know I am fat, but this is not a competition of good looks, because even if we get into it, I know I am better-looking than you.”
Gordon said Duterte’s incensed reaction to the hearings only further reinforces the suspicion that he and Sen. Bong Go may be part of the “cabal.”
“Coincidentally, all those being implicated are from Davao. Doesn’t the President want to hear the explanation on why we bought [sets of personal protective equipment] for P1,990 when these could have been bought for P884?” he said.
In a privilege speech, Go decried how the Senate inquiry was supposedly being used to push a political agenda and reiterated his protest that his name was being dragged into questionable P8.7 billion worth of contracts.
While not naming Gordon, Go criticized the manner by which the inquiry was being handled, and how resource persons were supposedly being bullied.
He challenged senators to “send culprits to jail” if they saw evidence of corruption, and vowed to resign if his involvement was clearly established, “even for a single peso.”
At the House of Representatives, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said the senators on the receiving end of Duterte’s rant should ignore it and continue with their inquiry.
“The evidence of corrupt cronyism under the Duterte administration is piling up. It’s really becoming evident that Mr. Duterte and his men used the pandemic to benefit their favored oligarchs,” Gaite said in a statement.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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