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Duterte order on Senate hearings upsets 'system of checks and balances' — lawyers' group

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Duterte order on Senate hearings upsets 'system of checks and balances' â lawyers' group
President Rodrigo Duterte holds up a photo from his 2017 meeting in Davao City with his former economic adviser Michael Yang and executives of Pharmally International Holding Co. during a meeting with his pandemic task force aired on August 31, 2021.
Presidential Communications Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Bar Association on Tuesday said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s order barring officials of the executive branch from attending Senate hearings into pandemic spending violates the separation of powers under the Constitution.

In a statement, the country's oldest organization of lawyers said that Duterte’s order "upsets our system of checks and balances and transgresses the doctrine of separation of powers among the three branches of government under our Constitution."

They also said that Duterte's order for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and uniformed services to ignore warrants from the Senate is an "undue impairment of Legislative prerogatives and violates the doctrine of separation of powers."

The PBA then appealed to Duterte, who they noted is a "brother in the legal profession," to recall his twin orders that they said violate the Constitution.

In September, Duterte said he will require his Cabinet members to seek his approval first before attending congressional inquiries. This, as the Senate continues its hearing into the government’s pandemic spending.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is leading a legislative inquiry into deficiencies in pandemic spending, which the Commission on Audit flagged. The inquiry has since focused on individuals linked to the president and Sen. Bong Go.

Gordon, who has been at the receiving end of Duterte’s ire in past speeches, heads the Blue Ribbon Committee.

Accountability

The PBA stressed that the chief executive directing its officials to disobey summons from the Senate is "detrimental" to the public who are exacting accountability from officials of the government.

The PBA also said that the legislative inquiry looking into government spending amid a pandemic where thousands of Filipinos lost lives makes "quest for public accountability of vital importance."

The president’s order to military and police to ignore warrants from the Senate is "equally concerning," the lawyers’ group added.

They noted that instead of upholding professionalism among the ranks, Duterte’s order reduces them to "political pawns used as shields against what is perceived as political attacks."

"The directive is a disservice to the principle of civilian supremacy over the military. We should be mindful that an unlawful order invites disobedience and challenge," they added. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Bella Perez-Rubio

PHILIPPINE BAR ASSOCIATION RODRIGO DUTERTE
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