MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte cannot just order Cabinet officials to stop attending the Senate blue ribbon committee’s investigation of the allegedly overpriced pandemic supplies procured by the government, Senator Richard Gordon said on Friday.
Gordon pointed out that Duterte runs the risk of committing sedition and betraying the public’s trust, especially as a lot of people want to know how Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. was able to bag P8.7 billion worth of contracts with just a small paid-up capital.
“I don’t think he can do that, that will be sedition, at saka that is really the betrayal of the people’s trust lalo na at nakikita naman ng tao maraming nahuhuli, at ‘pag ginawa niya ‘yan lalong lalabas na may tinatago siya. Hindi naman namin inaapi ‘yong mga kwan d’yan,” Gordon told ABS-CBN Teleradyo’s SRO.
The senator, who chairs the blue ribbon committee, said that Duterte, as a lawyer should understand that senators have to be confrontational in some occasions, to extract the truth from resource persons they believe are telling lies.
“Syempre, we have to be confrontational, and he is a lawyer, he knows that, may mga witnesses tayo na (hindi) magsabi ng totoo, so we have to be a little bit more aggressive no, and ‘yon ang nakalagay sa batas na pwede kaming mag-(investigate) in aid of legislation or investigation in the powers of oversight,” Gordon explained.
In a pre-recorded briefing aired Thursday, Duterte said that he will formally bar Cabinet officials from attending the committee hearings, to allow them to focus on solving the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, Duterte also asked officials to seek his permission first before attending the Senate hearings, which he believes is being done to target the administration and get media mileage.
Gordon said the move only shows that Duterte is keen on protecting his allies, like former Procurement Service – Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) head Christopher Lloyd Lao, and former presidential economic adviser and Chinese businessman Michael Yang.
Lao was dragged into the issue as he headed PS-DBM when Pharmally was tapped to provide pandemic supplies for the Department of Health (DOH).
On the other hand, Yang’s name surfaced after Pharmally supply chain head Linconn Ong and company president Huang Tzu Yen admitted that Duterte’s ex-adviser assisted them, by guaranteeing to Chinese suppliers that Pharmally can pay, and by providing financial assistance to the company.
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