President Duterte’s directive has created an unnecessary constitutional crisis in the middle of a pandemic that has wrought havoc on the lives of Filipinos. The President must respect the constitutional exercise of power by a co-equal branch of government. The President must allow the Senate to perform its constitutional oversight function in investigating possible anomalies in the purchase, in several billion of pesos, of PPE by PS-DBM.
We quote and adopt the following statement issued by the alumni of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines:
We, the undersigned alumni of the UP College of Law, strongly condemn the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to his Cabinet members and other executive officials not to attend the ongoing Senate investigation on the purchases by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation. This directive of President Duterte is clearly unconstitutional.
In Senate v. Ermita (2003), the Supreme Court ruled that the President has no power to bar Cabinet members and other executive officials from attending Senate inquiries in aid of legislation. The Court explained that “when the inquiry in which Congress requires their appearance is ‘in aid of legislation’ xxx, the appearance is mandatory xxx.” The Court added, “While the executive branch is a co-equal branch of the legislature, it cannot frustrate the power of Congress to legislate by refusing to comply with its demands for information.”
The only exception, ruled the Court in Senate v. Ermita, is when the executive official properly invokes “executive privilege,” which refers to matters involving national security, military or diplomatic secrets, or conversations and correspondences between the President and his officials. Obviously, “executive privilege” cannot be invoked in the purchase of common-use PPE by PS-DBM. The Senate has also not asked Cabinet and executive officials regarding their conversations or correspondences with the President.
President Duterte’s directive has created an unnecessary constitutional crisis in the middle of a pandemic that has wrought havoc on the lives of Filipinos. The President must respect the constitutional exercise of power by a co-equal branch of government. The President must allow the Senate to perform its constitutional oversight function in investigating possible anomalies in the purchase, in several billions of pesos, of PPE by PS-DBM. If the President has nothing to hide, there is no reason from him to stop the investigation.
We, therefore, demand that President Duterte immediately withdraw his directive banning Cabinet members and other executive officials from attending the Senate investigation on the Pharmally transactions.
Principal witness Krizle Mago of Pharmally has recanted her admission in the Senate that her firm had indeed swindled the government for delivering expired or substandard face shields to the Duterte government.
Her recantation was included in an opening statement delivered before a committee of the House of Representatives where she had sought succor after a week of being desaparecido.
She was unreachable until she surfaced and got immediate protective custody from the House – the Senate’s twin in our bicameral legislature.
This was a successful snatch play after which the Senate will have to contend with the legal complication of whether it can order the arrest of Mago for being an intransigent witness while she is in the custody of a co-equal body.
We recall the context of President Rodrigo Duterte berating the Senate for its alleged browbeating of witnesses in its investigation of the multi-billion-peso Pharmally brouhaha.
With this recent turn of events, it is apparent that very powerful forces immediately got to work to subvert the damaging testimony that Mago had offered in the Senate. Some doubt must be planted, if only to douse the conflagration that can cause immediate deflation of certain political ambitions.
Mago’s recantation is fully understandable. Perjury versus injury. The choice is easy./WDJ