MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he views "with grave concern" the Senate's recommendation to file charges against Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi over the Malampaya deal, describing it as "unfair."
In a statement hours after Cusi released his, Duterte said the energy chief has his full support, adding that local and foreign investments are important to the country's economy.
This came after Senate Energy Committee Chairman Sen. Win Gatchalian transmitted the Senate resolution plus its annexes to the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday.
The resolution recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against Cusi and other energy officials regarding the controversial buyout of the Malampaya gas field by business tycoon Dennis Uy.
Gatchalian said the resolution was signed by 18 senators, with 4 senators abstaining.
Uy was a major donor to President Duterte's election campaign in 2016. His business empire has expanded greatly to various industries and services under the Duterte administration.
Uy and his representatives have previously said that the Malampaya deal was a “strictly private transaction” and did not violate any law.
"I view with grave concern an apparent effort at the Senate to put in bad light recent developments involving the Malampaya Gas Field," Duterte said.
"This casts undue, undeserved, and unwarranted aspersion on the part of some of our key government officials. This is grossly unfair to them and to the public," he added.
Echoing Cusi's statement, Duterte said the transactions were "private" and must be respected. He emphasized that he has read the report on the matter.
"I have seen the report on the sale and purchase of the stock of Chevron Malampaya LLC. Based on this, I am convinced that this was a private transaction between private entities that must be respected," he said
Duterte also said he believes that "the national interest has been protected and the rights of the government remain intact."
"Let me reiterate: Energy Secretary Cusi has my full trust and confidence and shall remain at the helm of the department he heads," he said.
"The government values the critical role and contribution of the Malampaya Gas Field to energy security. I will not allow this valuable resource to be jeopardized and embroiled in the political antics of some members of the Senate," he said.
Cusi earlier reiterated that the deals were legal and aboveboard, saying that the Senate energy committee hearing against him was politicized.
He said he is also prepared to face the court and the charges filed against him.
Cusi heads the faction of the Duterte-backed PDP-Laban, following a rift with the group of presidential aspirant Senator Manny Pacquiao.
This is not the first time Duterte cast doubt on Senate investigations. Last year, the chief executive criticized senators for looking into the government's deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which was able to secure billions worth of transactions despite having less than a million in paid-up capital.