President Rodrigo Duterte continued to lash out at his former allies in the Senate last week for bringing out his administration’s serious shortcomings.
His continued two-pronged attacks were aimed at Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon, previously dependable allies in the upper chamber of Congress.
A third senator, Manny Pacquiao, has also been the subject of Duterte’s verbal insults in the past but the Gordon-Lacson tandem has drawn more presidential insults recently.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee headed by Gordon is conducting an investigation on the Department of Health’s purchase of medical supplies.
But Health Sec. Francisco Duque lll failed to explain what appears to be grossly overpriced personal protective equipment (PPEs) purchased from a company with a dubious background.
Committee member Lacson has taken an active part in the probe, releasing his own expose on a reported overpriced PHP1 million (US$20,000) per ambulance purchased by the DOH.
Instead of answering the allegations against his Health Secretary, the President admitted that he authorized the purchase without a public bidding.
He then attacked Gordon for being “too fat” and Lacson for changing the way the senior senator combed his hair.
Gordon retorted in a media interview that while he was, indeed, fat, he would still beat Duterte in a contest to determine who was better looking.
Duterte also asked the Blue Ribbon panel to end its investigation of an ongoing project, which he said was affecting the work of the country’s healthcare workers.
Duterte also asked the Commission on Audit to examine Gordon’s role as titular head of the Philippine Red Cross, which he claimed the senator was using as “a milking cow” for his political plans.
Various quarters later reminded the President that the Red Cross is a private organization and the COA has no authority to audit its books.
The Blue Ribbon had focused on the PHP8.7 billion (US$174 million) contract to supply face shields to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a company operating at a capitalization below PHP1 million.
The company was also found to have a fictitious address and its top executives were wanted in Taiwan for reported financial crimes.
Meanwhile, Lacson replied to Duterte that he had not changed the way he combed his hair and the president has lost his mind.
Lacson also said that the President was now in “panic mode” as the proof of corruption was beginning to point to Malacañang as the source.
The President threatened to block his Cabinet members from further testifying before the Senate because he said the probes were all for show and going nowhere.
The ongoing Blue Ribbon hearings were leading “to nothing” and should thus be stopped, he said.
Duterte also said the two senators – both of whom have indicated that they may run for president next year – were now showboating because it was election season.
The two senators reminded the President that the Senate was a co-equal branch of government and Duterte had no power to tell them what to do or not to do.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao appeared ready to join the fray after arriving from the US from his recent fight. Pacquiao said he would soon present the documents proving high level corruption at the DOH as he had earlier promised.
University of the Philippines Constitutional Law professor John Molo told local media that the President’s verbal attacks which avoided valid issues directed against him or his Cabinet was “a tactic to distract and confuse.” He added that personal attacks to diminish a target was a tactic that the President had mastered.