Duterte says 'happy' with 'fair' House probe on COVID-19 deals

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2021 11:44 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte gives a public statement after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on Sept. 13, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo
President Rodrigo Duterte gives a public statement after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Palace on Sept. 13, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has said he was "happy" with the "fair" House of Representatives inquiry into government's pandemic deals, which he said was "more sane" compared to the Senate's probe. 

Duterte said the House probe "allowed the witnesses to talk" and was "devoid of rudeness, bias and partiality perpetrated by [Sen. Richard] Gordon" in the upper chamber's investigation. 

"I’m happy that the House… initiated a congressional inquiry into the alleged misuse of funds… It is the more sane inquiry," he said in a taped meeting with officials that aired on Thursday.

"It was fair… The witnesses were heard, and allowed to explain. There was no badgering and no bullying. No one argued with the resource person," added the President.

Both the House and the Senate are investigating government's P8.6-billion deal with Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. for the supply of supposedly overpriced anti-virus masks and face shields last year. 

The Senate is specifically looking into supposed ties of Duterte's former adviser Michael Yang with Pharmally. At a hearing last week, a Pharmally official admitted to borrowing money from Yang for the supply deal.

Duterte said there was "no overpricing" and "no ghost deliveries as some senators were implying." 

"It might seem that we are begging for a fight with you. We are not. Ang problema d’yan, iyong Blue Ribbon, ang chairman (Gordon) is a despot," Duterte told senators. 

(The problem is the Blue Ribbon committee, the chairman is a despot.)

Describing Gordon, Duterte said, "He does not allow others to answer and he cuts the testimony of even the COA. He talks and talks and talks. He cannot help but open his mouth. He is a pathological storyteller."

"We do not want to quarrel with you guys," the President said, again addressing senators. "But marendahan n’yo ‘yan si Gordon. Otherwise we will come to a head." 

(But control that Gordon.)
 
SENATORS PUSH BACK 

Duterte's remarks are "designed to lose our (Senate) focus," Gordon said. 

"We are totally focused. Evidence is very overwhelming and strong," he told reporters. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III meanwhile said investigating and uncovering the truth "never brought any harm to a nation."

"Senators are not prosecutors. We simply ask questions and recommend. The executive and the Ombudsman prosecute, not us," he said. 

"We will not be distracted," added Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.