Cabinet officials barred from attending Senate hearings

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered members of the executive department including cabinet secretaries to ignore any summons issued by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, that is investigating highly anomalous purchases of multi-trillion-peso worth of medical supplies integral to the pandemic response. 

Duterte has seemingly been defending Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., an undercapitalized startup that bagged P8 billion in government contracts. The President said Gordon was “playing God” for having his Cabinet members attend the hearings while there is a pandemic. 

Duterte told Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Secretary Carlito Galvez, head of the national COVID-19 response, to “pull back” and refocus their attention on the pandemic. 

“Never mind Gordon. He is nothing,” Duterte said. “Do not do what Gordon says because he is treading on dangerous ground.” 

“I have ordered [Executive] Secretary [Salvador] Medialdea to prepare the… memorandum to all in the executive department [to] no longer obey your summons because you said kingdom come,” Duterte said, addressing Gordon. 

Duterte said Gordon was “overstepping” his jurisdiction and that the senator committed an “abuse of discretion.” 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate will not arrest Cabinet members for refusing to appear at the hearings. 

“Respect and prudence towards a co-equal part of our government is still alive and well on the part of the Senate,” Sotto said. 

He added the Constitution states the Senate “may request” them to appear, so it is clear that it is not obligatory. 

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Pres. Duterte is desperately trying to cover up the costly irregularities with Pharmally, making people believe that corruption is being concealed. 

He said the memo of the President is futile because of the damning testimonies already given at the Blue Ribbon Committee hearings. 

He added that testimonies of non-Cabinet officials exposed the massive corruption. 

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

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