MANILA- Senators from the opposition Liberal Party on Tuesday expressed alarm over "attacks and threats" by the administration and its allies against several government institutions, saying the independence of such agencies should be respected.
In a statement, LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan and members Sen. Bam Aquino and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon raised concern over recent statements against the Office of the Ombudsman, the Supreme Court, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) - agencies that have expressed dissent against administration policies.
The senators issued the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte's recent criticism of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, now facing impeachment at the House of Representatives, and the chamber's earlier threat to cut the CHR budget.
“These attacks on our democratic institutions are alarming and unproductive. Independent and unbiased institutions should not be attacked but encouraged,” Aquino said.
Pangilinan meanwhile urged Duterte to cooperate with the Ombudsman's investigation into his family's alleged wealth.
“We hope President Rodrigo Duterte will reconsider his position in refusing to cooperate with the investigation. We agree with Ombudsman Morales that if he has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to fear,” Pangilinan said.
“Transparency and accountability should be the hallmark of this administration, as he promised the Filipino people,” he added.
Drilon stressed that threats on institutions such as the High Court and the Ombudsman are a "veiled attempt of the administration to consolidate power."
“We must keep in mind that the Constitution has enough safeguards to discipline and go after erring officials. We should apply and follow the Constitution and the rule of law," Drilon said.
The senators also noted that this is not the first time that Duterte or his allies had filed cases against dissenting officials.
Other officials who have had ouster complaints filed against them are LP stalwart Vice President Leni Robredo and Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista. Both attempts did not prosper.
The President last Saturday had challenged Sereno and Morales to resign with him amid an investigation into his family's wealth. He alleged that the two officials had allowed themselves to be "used" in the corruption allegations against him.
Last month meanwhile, the President called CHR Chairman Chito Gascon a "pedophile."
On the other hand, the House, led by the President's allies, earlier voted to slash the CHR's proposed 2018 budget to only P1,000 but later decided to restore the funding amid heavy backlash.