Carpio: Duterte can’t bar Cabinet members from attending Senate probe
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte cannot prohibit his Cabinet members from attending a Senate investigation on the alleged overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) bought by the government amid the pandemic, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Friday.
During an online forum of the opposition coalition 1Sambayan, Carpio said that the Senate investigations are in aid of legislation.
“The President cannot bar Cabinet members from attending Senate investigations on Pharmally because the investigation is in aid of legislation,” said Carpio.
“In investigations in aid of legislation, the Cabinet members attend as ordinary witnesses or resource persons. In the question hour, the Cabinet members attend as heads of department. So it’s very clear that the President has no authority to bar the Cabinet members from attending the Senate investigation of Pharmally because this investigation is in aid of legislation, not a question hour investigation,” he also explained.
The Senate blue ribbon committee is investigating the procurement of allegedly overpriced PPEs bought by the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management for the Department of Health in 2020. During the hearings, senators have questioned Pharmally for bagging over P8.6 billion worth of supplies contracts despite being only several months old and having just P625,000 in paid-up capital.
Irked by the Senate investigation, Duterte earlier said he will require Cabinet members to get his clearance first before they could attend inquiries of the upper chamber.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque then claimed that Duterte’s pronouncement has a legal basis. He even said that the President could issue an executive order to formalize his order.
While Carpio agreed that Duterte can stop Cabinet members from attending Senate investigations by invoking executive privilege, he stressed that the President should present valid grounds.
However, the retired justice stressed there is no valid reason for Duterte to invoke executive privilege to bar department heads from attending the investigation on procured PPEs.
“The president must state the reason for the executive privilege. Any valid indication of the executive privilege usually refers to national security, state or diplomatic secrets, and if the President says you cannot attend the Pharmally investigation because it involves national security, nobody will believe that,” Carpio said.
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