MANILA— Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday he will not attend the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing scheduled this week on government's pandemic supply deals, as he continues to abide by President Rodrigo Duterte's memo barring executive officials from the proceedings.
The Senate body is slated to resume its inquiry on the government's pandemic deals on Thursday, the 14th hearing on the allegedly overpriced deal with controversial firm Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
Duque, meanwhile, explained that they were advised to abide by the memorandum order which bars Cabinet secretaries and executive officials from attending committee investigations.
“I’m not attending, unless there is a reversal of the decision of the memorandum order. But mind you, I attended 100 percent of all the Senate hearings,” the health chief pointed out in a virtual forum.
He added that no representative from the Department of Health (DOH) will attend Thursday's hearing as the president's memorandum covers all employees.
“It covers all executive officials and employees of the national government agencies,” Duque said.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is conducting a probe on the government’s purchase of allegedly overpriced and substandard face masks, face shields and other medical equipment from Pharmally, a firm linked to Duterte's former adviser.
Duque had denied he was involved in the awarding of contracts to Pharmally, saying his agency transferred funds to the Department of Budget and Management as it has 10 bids and awards committees and was more than capable.
The official earlier said he supports the petition of 45 medical workers' groups signed by former health chiefs calling for accountability after Duterte banned his Cabinet from attending the chamber's legislative inquiries.
Duterte has blasted the panel’s conduct of the hearings, calling the investigation a “waste of time.” He has also repeatedly insulted Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the committee.