President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of “trouble” in government if the Senate will detain Cabinet officials amid its investigation on government’s purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) last year.
In his public address late Monday night, the President advised his Cabinet men to walk out of congressional inquiries if lawmakers would shout at them during hearings.
Mr. Duterte singled out Sen. Richard Gordon over his use of the Senate Blue Ribbon Investigation to boost his stock as presidential timber in next year’s elections.
“Don’t allow Gordon to just shout at you. Just stand up and go out,” Duterte told officials, speaking partly in the vernacular.
He then assured Cabinet members that he will not let them be detained at the Senate for contempt.
“If the sergeant-at-arms detains you, then once I hear about it, I will go to the Senate and get you, extract you. That’s what will really happen,” the President said.
Duterte also lamented that hearings supposedly impede the government’s Covid-19 containment strategy since officials spend time answering lawmakers’ queries instead of attending to their duties.
“The inquiry is being done at the expense of dragging government officials and compromising the government’s efforts against Covid-19 at a time when cases are at an all-time high and thousands of our people are getting sick and dying,” he said.
His remarks came days after he ordered officials of the Executive branch to seek his permission before attending investigations.
Lawmakers have been questioning how Singapore-based Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. bagged several government contracts worth over P8 billion even though the six-month-old firm then only had a paid-up capital of P625,000.
Duterte has since offered to resign if irregularities were found in the government’s purchase of pandemic supplies last year, as he vouched for the integrity and track records of officials in the Executive branch.
Just hours after Duterte’s statement, the Senate on Tuesday arrested Pharmally director Lincoln Ong for contempt for allegedly being evasive in his answers to questions by lawmakers.
The Chamber’s sergeant-at-arms fetched Ong from his house in Metro Manila and brought him to the Senate building in Pasay where he was detained.
Gordon’s committee issued separate warrants of arrests against Ong and former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang for giving varying answers to their inquiries and “lying” under oath.
The Pharmally executive, however, was granted house arrest after he disclosed that he tested positive for Covid-19.
with Sundy Locus