PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, ordered Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III and other members of his Cabinet to seek his permission to attend the Senate investigation into the deficiencies in the use of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response funds.
“This time, I will require every Cabinet member to clear with me any invitation and if I think, that he will be called for walang silbi except to harass, to be berated in front of the republic, eh hintuin ko na yan at pagbawalan ko na,” he said in a public address aired on Tuesday.
“Mahirap ‘yang ganyan pinapatawag niyo, pabalik-balik tapos di naman niyo nayu-utilize ang testimony,” he added.
He criticized the Senate blue ribbon committee for holding hearings that take up to seven hours.
“We do not question the authority and the power of the Senate to investigate in aid of legislation. But alam mo kasi, nakita ko na pinapatawag ninyo almost so many persons and yet you only able to put the resource person for five, six, seven hours, ‘yung iba naghihintay na wala namang silbi, and yet the subpoenas are repeated every hearing at pinapatawag sila and they get most of the DOH officials in these morning hearings. They are all there doing nothing,” he said.
Duterte said that while the Senate has the authority to cite persons in contempt and issue arrest warrants, he also has the power over his Cabinet secretaries as the chief executive.
“Now, may option kayo, you can cite in contempt pero ako na magsabi na ako ang may utos na hindi mag-attend so that is, I think I can do it as president really if there is an abuse of authority there or exceeding the authority of the reasonable time that the Congress conducts a hearing I will limit you to what you can do with the Executive Department of the government,” he said.
Duterte said the probe on the use of DOH funds has since “branched out” to several other issues that implicate the administration in corrupt activities.
He again attacked Senator Richard Gordon, committee chairman, and said he will campaign against the senator in the May 2022 elections.
The Senate investigation has uncovered the link between Duterte's former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang and Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the small company that bagged an P8.68-billion contract to supply face masks, face shields, test kits and personal protective equipment. (SunStar Philippines)