Duterte can legally bar Cabinet members from attending Senate probe – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he will bar Cabinet members from attending Senate inquiries without his clearance has a legal basis, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President could issue an executive order to formalize his pronouncement. He also cited a Supreme Court decision where Cabinet officials cannot be held in contempt if they refuse to attend congressional probes upon the instruction of the chief executive.
“Talagang hindi dapat i-contempt kapag hindi pina-attend sa isang hearing ang isang miyembro ng Gabinete alinsunod sa pag-uutos ng Presidente mismo because they are alter-egos of the President,” he said in a Palace briefing.
(Cabinet members cannot be cited in contempt if they do not attend a hearing upon the instruction of the President because they are alter-egos of the President.)
“There’s legal basis for that kung gagawin ‘yan ng Presidente,” he added.
(There’s a legal basis if the President wants to do that.)
In a public address aired on Tuesday morning, President Duterte said he will require Cabinet members to secure a clearance from him first before they can attend Senate probes, adding he will “limit” what the chamber can do if he feels there is “abuse of authority.”
He said he would bar Cabinet officials from attending if the probe is “senseless” and only serve to “harass or berate” officials.
He said he will assess whether the hearing is “reasonable” and Cabinet official’s presence would be vital and would be “pursuant to the truth.”
When asked what the President’s criteria will be when deciding whether to allow a Cabinet official to attend, Roque said the probe should be “in aid of legislation” and not “in aid of election.”
“Kinakailangan yung imbestigasyon in aid of legislation. ‘Pag malinaw na in aid of election, hindi na ‘yan dapat payagan ng ehekutibo,” he said.
(The investigation should be in aid of legislation. If it’s in aid of election, that should not be allowed by the Executive department.)
“Kailangan malinaw ‘yung legislation na nais ipasa ng Kongreso alinsunod sa ginagawa nilang hearings,” he added.
(The Congress should make it clear what kind of legislation they are eyeing to do as the goal of the hearings.)
The President made the remarks as the Senate continues to investigate the purchase of allegedly overpriced medical supplies at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Arroyo-era fight with Congress
A similar maneuver was used by the executive branch to get its way with the senators during the Arroyo administration’s feud with the Senate.
In an Executive Order issued on Sept. 28, 2005, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo directed all departments of the executive branch to obtain the President’s approval before participating in congressional investigations.
By citing the separation of powers of the three branches of government and the executive privilege, the Executive Order covered senior officials in the executive department; police officers with a rank of chief superintendent or higher (equivalent to police brigadier general today); and senior national security officials.
Furthermore, officers and employees of government are prohibited from using or disclosing confidential or classified information, which is available to them indirectly through their office but not to the general public.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.