President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday welcomed the decision of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to question before the Supreme Court the legality of his order barring Cabinet officials from attending hearings into the alleged misuse of multibillion-peso COVID-19 response funds, saying he is ready to defend his memorandum.
“We welcome this move of bringing the legality of the memorandum to the Supreme Court,” the President said in his Talk to the People aired late Monday evening.
“We would like to congratulate the Senate for realizing, albeit late, that it is the Court which should eventually decide on the constitutionality of the order and we will defend it,” he added.
Two lawyer’s groups – the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Bar Associate – and four former Health secretaries – Carmencita Reodica, Manuel Dayrit, Enrique Ona Jr. and Esperanza Cabral – have rallied behind medical groups in calling on Duterte to lift the ban and not to “obstruct” Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigations into the alleged overpriced purchase of personal protective equipment through Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
But Duterte insisted it was not a matter of having the best position, but upholding what is legal under existing laws.
“We are not saying that we are the best minds here. It’s an issue of law. Either way: You win or you lose, but the beauty of this is that the Supreme Court will be the final arbiter now,” he said.
“This is, by far, the most decent thing the committee has done and we are eager to answer whatever questions you have,” the President added.
Duterte again lamented that his Cabinet officials, who are also on top of the government’s COVID-19 response, have been wasting their time attending the hearings where they are made to wait for hours, and sometimes not called to speak at all.
“I told you, you can crush Pharmally for all I care. But do not insult my people. Do not make them look like morons who do not know any better,” he said.
“You claim my officials are impertinent, but only a judge can make such a call,” he added.
The Office of the Solicitor General earlier defended the legality of Duterte’s decision to enjoin Cabinet members and other officials of the Executive department from appearing before the Senate inquiry.
The OSG said the ongoing hearings by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee were “not in aid of legislation” because there is no specific legislative measure that needs enactment by Congress.