Guevarra: Memo barring Cabinet from attending Senate probe not meant to defy Congressional authority

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Guevarra: Memo barring Cabinet from attending Senate probe not meant to defy Congressional authority
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Palace on September 30, 2021.
Presidential photo / Arman Baylon

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will urge the review of the memo barring Executive department officials from attending Senate probe into pandemic spending, as he explained that the directive does not intend to defy the Chamber’s authority to hold legislative inquiries.

During the DOJ’s budget hearing at the Senate, Guevarra explained that he did not participate in the crafting of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea’s memo that contained President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to Executive branch officials to no longer appear in the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings.

But the DOJ chief said that he believes that the Office of the President’s memorandum was issued “not to defy the Constitutional prerogative of the congress to conduct legislative inquiries.”

“To me, the objective or essence of this memo is not to defy your authority or prerogative but to protest the manner in which the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings has been conducted during the past few weeks,” he said.

Guevarra said that the main concern may be the amount of time that Cabinet secretaries spend in the hearing.

“I am simply surmising but I believe that from the point of view of the Executive with nearly two months of hearing being conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee by now it would be quite clear already what aspects of legislation could be done. Is there any particular law that needs to be amended, new law to be enacted or some legal provisions that need to be repealed,” he said.

The Medialdea memo covers specifically Senate Blue Ribbon legislative inquiries into Commission on Audit report flagging multi-billion deficiencies in pandemic spending.

The hearings have since spanned to close in on Duterte’s appointees and other individuals linked to him, and have been ongoing for the past two months.

Review of memo

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a former justice secretary himself, expressed hope that Guevarra can help in having the memorandum reviewed.

He asked if Guevarra can favor the Senate with commitment that he will “seek out [Medialdea] and ask for a review of this memorandum so that we can prevent a continued conflict between the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, our chairman and the Executive branch.”

While Drilon said that he cannot speak for the Senate Blue Ribbon committee and Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the panel, the Executive can be assured that the Senate minority “do not intend to create a constitutional crisis.”

Guevarra said that he is very much willing to discuss the memorandum with Medialdea, but he added that he believes it would also need adjustment from the side of the Senate.

Drilon replied: “That is a reasonable request and suggestion, and I will refer it I will strongly, endorse such suggestions to our chairman Gordon to come up with some reasonable regulation because we don’t want to go to the [Supreme Court].”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Bar Association have also urged Duterte to reconsider his order, with the latter saying that the directive upsets our system of checks and balances and transgresses the doctrine of separation of powers among the three branches of government under our Constitution."  — with reports from Bella Perez-Rubio

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