Duterte should let Senate perform oversight function
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Manny Pacquiao has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to just let the Senate do its oversight function in investigating possible corruption in the procurement of pandemic supplies.
Pacquiao reminded Duterte on Wednesday that the 1987 Constitution gave the legislative the right to investigate matters of the land, which means that even the President could not prevent Cabinet officials from attending congressional hearings.
The solon’s statement came after Duterte said in his Tuesday briefing that all Cabinet officials required by the Senate to attend hearings should first seek clearance from him.
“Hindi tama na hadlangan ng Malacañang ang pagdalo ng mga miyembro ng Gabinete sa mga imbestigasyon ng Senado. Ginagawa lang ng mga senador ang aming tungkulin nang naaayon sa Saligang Batas,” Pacquiao said.
(It’s not right for Malacañang to prevent Cabinet members from attending Senate investigations. We senators are only doing our job according to the Constitution.)
Pacquiao said the investigation exhibits the checks and balances in government, which is vital in the country’s democratic state.
“Bahagi ang Senado ng lehislatura na may sariling paninindigan sa mga isyu. Mahalagang bahagi ito ng ating demokrasya,” he explained.
(The Senate is part of the legislative branch that enjoys independence from the two other branches of government and its own stand on various issues. This is an important feature of our democratic system.)
“Kung kinakailangan na humarap ang miyembro ng Gabinete sa mga pagdinig sa Senado, ito ay para maliwanagan and taumbayan sa iba-ibang isyu at sa paghahanap natin ng solusyon sa mga problema ng bansa natin,” he added.
(If Cabinet members are summoned to appear in Senate investigations, it is to allow them to articulate their position on various issues faced by the nation and to enlighten our people, so we can help find solutions to our common problems.)
The Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Senator Richard Gordon is currently investigating alleged procurement of overpriced face masks, face shields, and personal protective equipment (PPE) sets — stemming from Commission on Audit (COA) reports on the Department of Health (DOH) for 2022.
According to COA, P67.32 billion of DOH’s COVID-19 funds were said to have contained deficiencies — including P42 billion allocated to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management.
The committee has centered on Pharmally, after it was revealed that at least P8.7 billion of the Department of Health’s fund transfers to the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (PS-DBM) were used for contracts with the trading company.
Gordon’s committee has been probing Pharmally for possible overpriced supplies, and more recently, into its financial origins as it questioned how it was able to bag billions of contracts with just a capital of P625,000.
Among those being investigated are officials of Pharmally and its supposed financier, former Presidential economic adviser Michael Yang.
During the hearing on Monday, Gordon asked Pharmally director and supply chain head Linconn Ong to explain where they got the funds for each contract they entered with the government, for the supply of pandemic equipment like face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).
In two instances — transactions involving P3.82 billion and P2.877 billion — Ong said that he sought help from Yang to mount the needed funds.
Ong said the first Pharmally transaction was done with Yang’s help was to purchase two million PPE sets worth P1,910 each, for a total price of P3.82 billion.
The second transaction is to purchase 41,400 RT-PCR COVID-19 testing kits from China-based BGI Genomics, each priced at P69,500. The total price was P2.877 billion.
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