President Rodrigo Duterte has made official his directive prohibiting members of his Cabinet from attending the Senate Blue Ribbon Commitee’s investigation on the government’s procurement of medical supplies amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday night, Duterte said he made the order “because we cannot allow blatant disrespect of resource persons at the ongoing hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.”

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, whom the president has been critical of since his panel launched a probe on the government’s pandemic spending.

The memorandum, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, claimed the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee “has stepped into the mandates of other branches of government, and has deprived itself of the only basis to compel attendance to its hearings.”

“[T]he president has directed all officials and employees of the executive department to no longer appear before or attend the abovementioned Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, effective immediately. Instead, they shall focus all their time and effort on the implementation of measures to address the current state of calamity on account of Covid-19, and in carrying out their other functions,” it said.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s directive was “based on the premise that the principle of separation of powers requires mutual respect among the different branches of government and in view of Article II, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution on the protection and promotion by the State of the right to health of the people.”

Gordon slammed the memorandum and called its purpose unconstitutional.

“‘Yung in-issue mong memo is totally unconstitutional. You are violating the Constitution,” Gordon said.

“Walang issue ng national security, executive privilege and diplomatic discussions as mentioned in the case of Senate vs. Ermita,” he added.

Duterte has said that he would “extract” his Cabinet members within 24 hours should they get detained for contempt during inquiries.

Duterte has called the probe a witch hunt meant to stain his administration’s reputation. John Ezekiel J. Hirro