President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal attacks against some senators were made in defense of his “innocent” Cabinet members, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark amid criticism over Duterte’s tirade against some senators probing the government’s purchase of medical supplies amid rising Covid-19 cases.
“We never stopped our Covid response…But it is important for the President to stand by government officials he feels have not done anything wrong,” he said in a Palace press briefing in Filipino.
He also echoed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea’s call for senators to just file charges if they could prove that there is corruption in securing medical supplies contracts.
“If there is really corruption, charges should be filed and we should let the Ombudsman make the decision,” he added in Filipino.
Roque said Duterte was frustrated over how a series of Senate hearings were using up government officials’ time when they should be prioritizing measures to address the ongoing health crisis.
“What the President is saying that those who are attending the hearings including the DOH Secretary, Vaccine Czar, and Testing Czar are wasting time attending these hearings instead of our Covid response,” he said in Filipino.
He said Duterte was not in any way discouraging the Senate from conducting probes, noting that he respects their authority to do so.
“Can the President stop those probes? He can’t, because the Senate is independent. So the premise of your question asking why he wants to stop the probes is wrong because he has no control over these probes,” he said.
Roque, meanwhile, appealed to the Senate to allow government officials to prioritize efforts to address the pandemic.
“Our appeal is that in the middle of the pandemic, allow people in charge to do their jobs and focus on the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added in Filipino.
Duterte has said the Senate hearings are hampering the efforts of the government to deliver necessary Covid-19 responses.
“There are so many things to take care of actually on the home front. And if you keep on calling people to testify there, how can they work? For example, Secretary [Carlito] Galvez. How we can work if you are there?,” Duterte said partly in Filipino in a recent public address.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee is currently probing supposed deficiencies of the Department of Health (DOH) in spending Covid-19 response funds, including the purchase of allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.