(File photo courtesy of Senate PRIB)

MANILA – Senators formally filed a petition questioning President Rodrigo Duterte's order for executive department officers and workers to refrain from participating in legislative inquiries by the upper chamber's Blue Ribbon Committee.

In an 81-page suit dated Nov. 10, the petitioners led by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III asked the Supreme Court to declare the memorandum of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea dated Oct. 4, 2021, as "ultra vires" (beyond the powers) and asked the tribunal to prohibit him “from issuing any directives to officials and members of the executive to ignore and/or refuse to comply with orders from the Senate.”

The lawmakers sought a status quo order and a temporary restraining order to stop the enforcement of the memorandum.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III was also included in the petition as a nominal respondent.

The petitioners said memorandum “will not only deprive citizens of the opportunity to accurately formulate their opinions on this important public matter but also hinder their ability to effectively communicate their concerns to their representatives and other government officials through the various legal means allowed by their freedom expression”.

They also claimed the memorandum deprives the people of their right to information on matters of public concern.

On Nov. 3, President Duterte lashed out at two senators investigating supposed deficiencies in the government's Covid-19 pandemic spending, stressing that he would not be elected as the country’s president if he was corrupt like them.

In his pre-recorded public address, Duterte told Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, and Senator Frank Drilon that they would not be able to find any “loopholes” in the government’s procurement of medical supplies.

Duterte also criticized the ill-timed investigation, noting that the Commission on Audit has pointed out that the transactions for the purchase of emergency supplies during the first days of the pandemic had not been anomalous and that "there had been no overpricing and that the Bayanihan Law rules had been followed.” (PNA)