MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said the executive branch should not meddle with congressional investigations after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to "shut up" if they are summoned to a Senate probe on COVID-19 vaccines.
Duterte earlier warned that there may be a "crisis" between the executive and the legislative branches should Congress insist on looking into the inoculation of PSG members using smuggled COVID-19 vaccines last year.
"Ibabalik natin sa Malacañang 'yung panghihimasok na issue. Hindi na dapat manghimasok 'yung Malacañang sa tungkulin ng Senado o ng Kongreso na kung kami ay may pagdinig, uubra na kami ay magpatawag ng resource persons," Lacson said in an interview on TeleRadyo.
(We will also ask Malacañang about the meddling issue. Aren't they supposed to be hands off when the Senate or Congress holds a hearing wherein we are entitled to call resource persons?)
"'Pag kami ay nagpatawag ng resource persons, hindi naman ibig sabihin na mga suspects 'yun. Gusto lang natin maliwanagan at in aid of legislation," he said.
(When we summon resource persons, it doesn't mean that they are suspects. We just want to be clarified in aid of legislation.)
While Lacson is in favor of focusing on the government's plan for the procurement, distribution and storage of COVID-19 vaccines, the senator underscored that other related issues should not be ignored.
"Ang sa akin, mas importante muna 'yung immunization ng 110 million Filipinos kaysa mag-focus tayo sa iilang personnel ng PSG," he said.
(What's more important to me is the immunization of 110 million Filipinos instead of focusing on some personnel of the PSG.)
"Hindi ibig sabihin noon na kakalimutan na din 'yung ibang related issues... Hindi natin isinasantabi 'yung mga related issues na talagang related naman sa pangunahing issue," he said.
(But that doesn't mean that we will ignore other related issues... We will not set aside other issues that are really related to the main issue.)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III - who will preside over the Senate Committee of the Whole investigation on COVID-19 vaccines next week - said he would not summon PSG personnel in the hearing.
"The topic of my hearing is the roadmap for the 72.5 B for vaccines. Who in heaven’s name told him i’m calling for the PSG? I think the President is being misled," Sotto told reporters in a text message.
But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon noted that senators could still ask other resource persons about the illegal vaccination of the PSG.
"There is no preventing Congress from eliciting information in aid of legislation from other resource persons," he said in a statement.
"Congress can exact information on matters that can help it craft better legislation," he said.
The Senate investigation on the COVID-19 vaccines is scheduled to begin on January 11, 2020.