Duterte order for police to shun Senate probe ‘regrettable’: Hontiveros


Posted at Oct 01 2021 01:23 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2021 02:53 PM

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MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for the country's police and military to "stay out" of the Senate probe into Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. is "regrettable," Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Friday.

In a taped public address aired Thursday, Duterte made the directive seeing as the Senate sergeant-at-arms could be ordered to arrest persons who do not show up at the Senate hearing.

"Mag-order ka ng sergeant-at-arms mo, sino bang kasama niya? Isa lang man 'yan. So you will order the police? So I am ordering the police not to obey you," he said, referring to Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

(You order your sergeant-at-arms, but who will accompany him? He's just one person. So you will order the police? So I am ordering the police not to obey you.)

Hontiveros said the president’s statement is not helping them in their investigation.

“It’s also regrettable that the president should even instruct the [Philippine National Police] not to assist our [Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms] or Senate security in case they request assistance from the police in order to continue conducting our hearings,” she said on ANC’s “Headstart.”

"They introduce additional and unnecessary tensions into this already very difficult process na from the start, sana winelcome ni Presidente, winelcome 'yung trabaho ng Commission on Audit, at wine-welcome 'yung trabaho namin sa Senado (that we wish the President had welcomed, that he had welcomed the job of COA and our job in the Senate), instead of taking on this very combative, unnecessarily combative tone to our institution,” she said.

Hontiveros said Duterte’s orders, if carried out, would deliver a serious blow to the legislative process.

“Kasi, kung ang OSSAA (Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms), mangailangan ng tulong na mag-aresto ng witness or mag-secure ng witness under the protective custody of the Senate, eh tama lang na humingi ng assistance kung sakali sa PNP. Kanino pa ba hihingi ng assistance diba, Karen, kundi sa mga uniformed law enforcement authorities ng ating gobyerno?” she said on ANC’s “Headstart.” 

[If the OSSAA needs help in arresting a witness or securing a witness under the Senate’s protective custody, it’s just right to seek the PNP’s assistance, if ever it is needed. From whom should they seek assistance, Karen, if not from the country’s uniformed law enforcement authorities?)

“Eh kapag ipinagpilit ni presidente itong kanyang utos, kung mapilitan ang PNP na sumunod dyan, eh baka may mga witness na hindi na ma-secure ng Senado para magtestigo sa hearing. Baka may mga witness na dahil hindi ma-secure sa tulong ng PNP sa OSSAA ay masaktan or even worse or talagang tuluyan na lang mawala sa habang panahon.”

(If the president forces the implementation of his order, if the PNP will be forced to follow that, maybe the Senate won’t be able to secure some witnesses to appear at the hearing. Maybe some witnesses, because the OSAA will fail to secure them with the help of the PNP, will get hurt or just disappear forever.)

“That would be Karen a serious blow and offense against the legislative process,” she said. 

Hontiveros also described as “regrettable” the statement of Duterte that he will soon be issuing a memorandum prohibiting Cabinet members from attending any Senate investigation.

“It’s [a] very regrettable pair of announcements on his part,” she said.

“I’ve said before that the Supreme Court already spoke before on the limitations of such executive privilege,” she added.

“At nanatili ako na may kumpiyansa sa aming Senate President at Blue Ribbon Committee chairman to speak for our institution na tama lang na makapag-imbita kami o subpoena at tama rin lamang na dapat dumalo 'yung mga officials.”

[I still believe our Senate president and Blue Ribbon Committee chairman will speak up for our institution and insist that it is right for us to invite or subpoena resource persons, and it is right for the said officials to attend.]

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is currently conducting a probe on Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a company that supplied allegedly overpriced and substandard face masks, face shields and other medical equipment to the government.

President Rodrigo Duterte has blasted the panel’s conduct of the hearings, calling them a “waste of time.”

His former economic adviser, Michael Yang, has been linked to the allegedly dubious deals.

— ANC, 1 October 2021