MANILA, Philippines — Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, his fellow alumni at the University of the Philippines (UP) Law, and members of graduating classes at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) have demanded that President Rodrigo Duterte withdraw his order barring Cabinet members from attending the Senate inquiry on allegedly overpriced medical supplies for COVID-19.
In a statement shared on Saturday, Carpio and 16 other alumni of the UP Law said they “strongly condemn” the directive of Duterte, which they also described as “clearly unconstitutional.”
“We, therefore, demand that President Duterte immediately withdraw his directive banning Cabinet members and other executive officials from attending the Senate investigation on the Pharmally transactions,” they said.
The group cited the 2003 case of the Senate vs Ermita wherein the Supreme Court ruled that the President has no power to bar Cabinet members and other executive officials from attending Senate inquiries in aid of legislation.
They noted the statement of the Court that “while the executive branch is a co-equal branch of the legislature, it cannot frustrate the power of Congress to legislate by refusing to comply with its demands for information.”
The only exception, as ruled by Court in the said case, is when the executive official properly invokes “executive privilege,” which refers to matters involving national security, military or diplomatic secrets, or conversations and correspondences between the President and his officials.
But according to the group, the “executive privilege” cannot be invoked in the purchase of medical supplies by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
“President Duterte’s directive has created an unnecessary constitutional crisis in the middle of a pandemic that has wrought havoc on the lives of Filipinos. The President must respect the constitutional exercise of power by a co-equal branch of government,” the lawyers said.
“The President must allow the Senate to perform its constitutional oversight function in investigating possible anomalies in the purchase, in several billion of pesos, of PPE by PS-DBM. If the President has nothing to hide, there is no reason for him to stop the investigation,” they added.
Meanwhile, ADMU198, composed of members of several graduating classes in the university, also expressed concern over Duterte’s directive. The group had 30 signatories in their statement.
On Thursday, Duterte said he has ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to prepare an issuance barring Cabinet officials from attending the Senate investigation into the government’s purchase of allegedly overpriced medical supplies so that they could focus on the pandemic response.
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