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SC to Medialdea, Duque: Answer memo barring Cabinet men to attend Senate panel hearing

November 17, 2021 Hector Lawas 265 views

THE Supreme Court ordered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to answer a Senate petition questioning the legality of a Malacañang order barring Cabinet members from attending a blue ribbon committee inquiry into the government pandemic procurements.

In a resolution, the high court required Medialdea and Duque to file their comments within a non-extendible period of 30 days from receipt of the resolution.

In a petition, the Senate said the Memorandum of the Executive Secretary dated October 4, 2021 barring Cabinet members’ attendance, was unconstitutional, hence null and void, for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

Pending decision on the merits of the petition, the Upper Chamber sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order or status quo ante order to restrain the implementation of the memorandum, which supposedly was frustrating the Senate’s power to conduct inquiries.

“The subject memorandum is patently unconstitutional for directing executive officials not to attend the subject Senate hearings in utter defiance of the Honorable Court’s unanimous ruling in Senate v. Ermita, which definitely settled that the Executive should not issue directives to which the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is frustrated, ” the Senate said.

The Senate added that the challenged memorandum deprived the people of their right to information on matters of public concern especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malacañang ordered all officials and employees of the Executive Department “to no longer appear” before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon.

Under the memo, Medialdea underscored how the Executive Department has been showing “due respect” to the Senate panel through “faithful attendance” and “participation” of its officials and employees in the hearings.

The memo, however, noted that there are “clear indications” that the hearings are meant to go on indefinitely and are conducted “not in aid of legislation, but to identify persons to hold accountable for alleged irregularities already punishable under existing laws.”

The memo said the Senate panel has “stepped in the mandate of other branches of government and has deprived itself of the only basis to compel attendance to its hearings.”

The powerful Senate committee has been conducting hearings on alleged irregularities surrounding COVID-19 supplies such as PPEs, face shields, and face masks.

Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. was awarded over P8 billion worth of COVID-19 contracts in 2020 even if the small firm lacked the track record and credibility to engage in big ticket government procurement. In 2021, it got contracts worth P2.3 billion.