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Duterte told to mind separation of powers after complaining about Senate probes

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Duterte told to mind separation of powers after complaining about Senate probes
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and provided updates on the government's efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis in the country on January 13, 2021.
Released / PCOO Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:43 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday was told to read up on the doctrine of the separation of powers in government after he derided Senate inquiries as fruitless endeavors used by senators to "posture."  

Duterte voiced his criticism at a pre-recorded address aired Thursday where he and his pandemic task force were meant to discuss their response to the COVID-19 crisis. Senators are currently holding hearings into the "deficiencies" flagged by state auditors in the Department of Health's handling of pandemic funds. 

"Listen to some of the senators there...after an investigation one or two days hearing, nothing," he said partially in Filipino. "No recommendation, no prosecution, no imprisonment. Just pure posture." 

"Filipinos should not believe the president's statement that nothing is happening in the investigations being conducted in the Senate," Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a statement written in Filipino. "We have passed many laws that benefit the people because of the inquiries and investigations we have conducted." 

"He should also first read about the doctrine of Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances of the Executive, Congress and Judiciary before he interferes with us in the Senate." 

As the Blue Ribbon Committee on Friday afternoon resumed the hearing that drew Dutete's ire, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon manifested that he takes exception to Duterte's remarks. 

"With all due respect, to investigate in aid of legislation is the Senate’s constitutional mandate," he said. 

Lacson has confirmed that he will be seeking the presidency in 2022 alongside Senate President Vicente Sotto III who will run as his vice president. Sen. Gordon has also said that he is eyeing the presidency while Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has said that he might seek the vice presidency. 

While remaining deliberately vague in a manner reminiscent of his 2016 campaign, Duterte has publicly said multiple times that he will seek the vice presidency in 2022, possibly alongside his longtime aide and neophyte Sen. Christopher Go.

His daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, is also topping presidential surveys. 

Duterte reminded: Cases filed, officials dismissed after Senate probe 

Sotto in a statement said Duterte may have forgotten or may have been "misinformed" on the Senate's track record. 

"I will send him the Senate report on the [Committee] of the Whole investigation on Philhealth," he said. "Most of his appointed officers have now pending cases and were removed because of the Senate investigation."

"As far as I know, the Ombudsman usually relies on Senate investigations and reports for their preliminary investigations." 

READ: Senate recommends criminal, admin cases vs PhilHealth execs | Ombudsman orders suspension of top PhilHealth execs

Gordon, Blue Ribbon chairman, at the same hearing, maintained that the panel's investigations "have been effective and meaningful." 

"Former PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde was forced to resign and was not given retirement honors because of our investigations into the drug trade in Pampanga," he said. "PNP Major Rodney Raymundo Louie Baloyo is still detained while the case is being heard."

"Various anomalies and irregularities surrounding the Bureau of Corrections were also exposed because of our investigations on the erroneous release of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) to inmates."

Sen. Risa Hontiveros recalled a more recent probe into a bribery scheme that prompted Duterte to publicly admonish several officials from the Bureau of Immigration. 

"Has the president already forgotten why he handed out boxes of pastillas to [immigration officials at] the Palace? It was because of the Senate investigation into the Pastillas scam," she said in a statement written in Filipino. 

"After he fired the personnel inside the Bureau of Immigration, he'll be the one to say 'Don't believe the investigation'? Who did he believe then if not the result of the investigation?" 

Hontiveros was referring to immigration officials whom Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address had been fired but had actually returned to work after their preventive suspensions lapsed. The investigation into corruption at the immigration bureau is now in the hands of the justice department, which is part of the executive branch of government.

'If you're serious about corruption, don't interfere with investigations' 

"At first the president whispered to the people, 'No money' for adequate response to [COVID-19]. By the way, according to the COA investigation, there is [money.]," Hontiveros added. "They even returned it and didn’t use it." 

READ: Over P2 billion for COVID-19 supplies left unspent

"If he really wants to fight graft and corruption under his administration, if at all possible, he should not interfere."  

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

RODRIGO DUTERTE

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