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Duterte’s ‘futile’ move to bar Cabinet from probe will do ‘more harm than good’ – senator

/ 05:05 PM October 01, 2021
Duterte's 'futile' move to bar Cabinet from probe to do 'more harm than good' - senator

FILE – President Rodrigo Duterte with some members of his Cabinet in Malacañang. Image from Facebook/PCOO

MANILA, Philippines — With “damning” revelations already gathered by the Senate blue ribbon committee from non-government officials, President Rodrigo Duterte barring his Cabinet members from attending the investigation is a “futile” exercise, Senator Francis Pangilinan said.

Consequently, according to the senator, it will “do Malacañang more harm than good.”

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“The ban, while appearing dramatic and tough, will be futile though because the damning testimonies that have exposed the massive corruption have come from non-Cabinet officials and instead from the ordinary rank and file [government] employees and private citizens,” Pangilinan said in a message to reporters when sought for comment on Duterte’s latest remarks against the Senate’s ongoing investigation.

“The truth will still be uncovered even if the members of the Cabinet refuse to attend,” the senator added.

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It is clear, he continued, that Duterte was trying to “cover-up” what senators see as irregularities in the government’s pandemic purchases in 2020.

“Lalo lang magiisip ang tao na may pilit na itinatagong katiwalian. Lalo lang sila mababaon,” Pangilinan went on.

(This will further give Filipinos the impression that they are trying to cover up possible corruption. They are digging themselves a deeper hole.)

In a public address aired Thursday, Duterte said he has ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to prepare the proper issuance for barring Cabinet officials from attending the Senate inquiry.

READ: Duterte set to bar Cabinet men from Senate probe on pandemic purchase deals

For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the chamber would respect its co-equal branch of government.

“As alter egos of the President, Cabinet members will not be ordered arrested (if they don’t attend). Respect and prudence towards a co-equal part of our Government are still alive and well on the part of the Senate,” Sotto said.

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“The Constitution states ‘may request’ them to appear, so it is clear that it (their attendance) is not obligatory,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Duterte’s directive shows a lack of inter-parliamentary courtesy.

“Never na pinigilan ng Senado o ng Kongreso ang presidente na gawin ang kanyang mga tungkulin sa ilalim ng Konstitusyon,” she said in a video statement.

(The Senate or Congress never hindered the president from exercising his duty under the Constitution.)

Cabinet members were earlier instructed to seek Duterte’s permission before attending Senate hearings, as he will determine if the inquiry will benefit legislation.

He also told Cabinet officials to walk out from Senate hearings to “keep their dignity,” especially once they are berated.

At the height of the pandemic last year, the blue ribbon committee has been investigating the government’s purchases of medical goods, including allegedly overpriced face masks, shields and other supplies.

Senators have repeatedly questioned the Department of Health’s transfer of P42 billion to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) to procure pandemic response supplies in 2020.

A portion of this amount went to over P8.6 billion worth of contracts awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

READ: Duterte set to bar Cabinet men from Senate probe on pandemic purchase deals

Senators doubted the firm’s financial capacity since it was only established in 2019 with a small capital of P625,000 when it secured the supply deals.

READ: Mago absent as senators pound on PS-DBM’ favoritism’

The PS-DBM and Malacañang have repeatedly defended the government’s transactions with Pharmally and denied there had been overpricing involved.

READ: Probing corruption not part of COA’s mandate — chair

“Just to disabuse the mind of some people about corruption, it ain’t here at this time. I suppose that you are barking at the wrong person,” Duterte, for his part, said in a public address last Aug. 21.

READ: No overpriced purchase of face masks, face shields — Duterte

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TAGS: Nation, News, President Rodrigo Duterte, Senate blue ribbon committee, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senator Risa Hontiveros
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