MANILA, Philippines - A Malacanang official reiterated on Sunday that they did not issue a boycott nor a gag order on the probe against retired Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno.
In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said, “What the Executive was concerned about is the pertinent provisions [in the Constitution]…We are conscious that rules should be followed.”
On Friday, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago lambasted President Benigno Aquino III for supposedly preventing Cabinet officials from attending a probe she launched regarding Puno.
It was only Puno and Philippine National Police chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome who showed up.
Santiago received a letter from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. explaining that he and other Cabinet officials who were invited to appear at the probe need to obtain first the details of the hearing and what questions would be asked.
Valte dismissed criticisms that the non-appearance of the Cabinet officials was the present administration’s new take on former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Executive Order 464. The order prevented officials from attending congressional hearings until they get permission from the President.
Valte said the Cabinet officials based their opinion on Section 22, Article VI of the Constitution, which provides that “the heads of departments may upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments…”
She said, “We are ready and willing to cooperate, but rules also have to be followed…”
Santiago’s probe regarding Puno may already be the last after a plan by a committee at the House of Representatives has already been dropped.
A report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer said Puno may just “reprise his cool performance in the Senate inquiry.”