“We are of the considered view that the directive of President Duterte…(upsets) our system of checks and balances and transgresses the doctrine of separation of powers among the three branches of Government,” the Philippine Bar Association said in a statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s order on barring his Cabinet members from participating in the Senate probe on the alleged irregularities in the Government’s deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation has been denounced by law and human rights groups.
MANILA — The Philippine Bar Association (PBA), the country’s oldest national organization of lawyers, and Karapatan denounced the executive intervention into the said inquiry.
Both groups also condemned a directive Durterte released in a memorandum to both police and military to not enforce arrest warrants issued by the Senate blue ribbon committee to those found in contempt for non-cooperation. Such a directive, according to both groups, is “detrimental to our people exacting public accountability” for alleged irregularities in the use of public funds “during a pandemic that has cost countless Filipino lives.”
Any issue involving the people’s money is a matter of public interest, more so during a national health emergency, said Karapatan.
“Stifling investigations into these issues infringes upon the public’s right to know.”
However, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr’s defense of Duterte’s directive dwelt on “the premise that the principle of separation of powers requires mutual respect’ as all branches of Government act to protect and promote the right to health of the people during the current national state of calamity brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
In that regard, he said, “officials and employees should focus all their time and effort in addressing the challenges of the pandemic by performing their functions with utmost responsibility, integrity, and efficiency,” Mr Roque said in a statement.
Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay countered that the directive was “nothing more than a desperate attempt to cover up what now appears to be a widescale corruption scandal involving his men.”
“Those who pocket public funds at the expense of people’s lives should be held accountable,” she said.
The same directive to the military and police is also viewed as an “undue impairment of legislative prerogatives and violates the doctrine of separation of powers.
It also “unjustifiably reduces them into political pawns used as shields…, is a disservice in the principle of civilian supremacy over the military.
The lawyers’ group appealed to the president to “immediately recall his twin directives that in our view constitute clear violations of our Constitution.
“We must all stand and denounce any act of political expediency that erodes the rule of law,” the lawyers said.
Having affirmed the Senate’s oversight function and power to enforce its own rules by the Supreme Court, the lawyers association reminded Duterte of his promise to not tolerate even a “whiff of corruption” in his administration. “That the ongoing investigation focuses on alleged anomalies in the use of huge amounts of public funds…makes the quest for public accountability of vital importance.”
Also, the lawyers said the instruction to the police and military is against the principle of civilian supremacy over the armed services.
“We should be mindful that an unlawful order invites disobedience and challenge,” they warned. (RA/Headline PH)