MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday issued a copy of the memorandum ordering all officials and employees of the executive department to cease attending hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon.
This, after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the memorandum during his address to the people on Monday evening, a week after asking Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to draft it.
In the memo, Medialdea highlighted how the Executive Department has shown “due respect” to the Senate panel through a “loyal presence” and “participation” of its officials and employees at hearings.
The memo, however, noted that there are “clear indications” that hearings are meant to go on indefinitely and are being conducted “not in support of the legislation, but to identify those to be held accountable for. irregularities presumed already punishable under existing laws “.
The memo said the Senate panel “encroached on the mandate of other branches of government and deprived itself of the sole basis for compelling participation in its hearings.”
“Based on the principle that the principle of the separation of powers requires mutual respect between the different branches of government, and having regard to Article II, section 15 of the 1987 Constitution on the protection and promotion by the State of the right to human health, the president ordered all officials and employees of the executive department to no longer appear or attend the aforementioned Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, with immediate effect, ”the memo reads.
The note also called on officials and employees of the executive department to focus all of their time and effort on measures to deal with the current state of calamity due to Covid-19, and in carrying out their duties. other functions.
“All officials and employees of the Executive Department are reminded to perform their duties in accordance with the Constitution and the laws, and to observe the utmost responsibility, integrity and efficiency. This administration will continue and will not hesitate to investigate and file a complaint against corrupt officials and employees in the appropriate forum, ”he added.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed the publication of the memorandum.
“The Palace confirms that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has ordered all officials and employees of the Executive Department to no longer appear or attend the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings on the 2020 Audit Commission report with immediate effect,” did he declare.
He said the presidential directive is based on the premise that the principle of separation of powers requires mutual respect between different branches of government and taking into account Article II, section 15 of the 1987 Constitution on the protection and promotion by the state of the right to human health.
“The Philippines is currently in a state of calamity in the Covid-19 account. That said, officials and employees should devote all of their time and effort to meet the challenges of the pandemic by performing their duties with the utmost responsibility, integrity and efficiency, ”said Roque.
In a statement, Chief Presidential Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo echoed Medialdea’s note, noting that Senate committee hearings had virtually ruled out invited government officials from performing their duties and duties.
He said it was only “logical” for the government to call all hands on the bridge to adequately respond to the current health crisis.
“It is for this specific purpose that the response to Covid-19 has taken an interdisciplinary, whole-of-government approach, with public health and general well-being as fundamental pillars,” Panelo said.
He recognized the power of the Senate to investigate but noted that it is not “absolute” since the law requires that such an investigation be carried out in support of the legislation or with a view to enacting, modifying or repealing a law. law.
“If the Senate investigation is truly in the service of legislation, then it is imperative that it inform the people of the specific laws they seek to create, modify or repeal. He didn’t, ”he added.
He urged the Senate panel to “shed light” on the subject of its investigation and the law or laws it seeks to create after nearly two months of grueling hearings.
“Although the executive department is genuinely prepared to oblige the Senate with deference and respect, it cannot continue to do so at the expense of the life and safety of the Filipino people,” he said.
Panelo said that if government officials / employees and individuals / institutions are involved in corruption or abnormal or illegal transactions, they will “accordingly be prosecuted, tried and punished to the fullest extent of the law”.
Members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, including Gordon, are currently investigating the government’s acquisition of medical supplies at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
Duterte previously asked the Audit Commission to audit the finances of the Philippine Red Cross, which Gordon allegedly used to raise funds for his election campaigns. (ANP)