The constitutional crisis sparked by President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for his Cabinet to ignore any summons from the Senate is not yet settled but Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra believes he has a way for both sides to come to some kind of agreement.

This after Health Sec. Francisco Duque refused a summons from the Senate Blue Ribbon committee late last week to attend the ongoing probe on the alleged irregular contract to supply pandemic supplies between the Health department and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

By law, Duque should attend the hearings or face arrest by the Senate Sgt-at-Arms as a consequence of contempt charges from the Senate.

Guevarra said last week that he would be “honored” to try and help solve the conflict by discussing the president’s order with Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea.

It was Medialdea who drafted the memorandum that ordered Cabinet officials not to attend further Blue Ribbon hearings.

That memo, dated October 4, was brought up by Minority leader Franklin Drilon during a budget hearing, where Guevarra was present.

Drilon told the Justice secretary that the Medialdea memo was “blatantly unconstitutional,” to which Guevarra said was reason enough to seek a “two-way” compromise.

Without going into details, Guevarra said it was imperative that adjustments be made “on both sides.”

Said Guevarra: “If I may, we’re willing to make arrangements. We hope on the part of the Blue Ribbon (committee), it can make adjustments. We need mutual reciprocal efforts.”

Drilon said Guevarra’s suggestion for a two-way exchange was “reasonable” but he would have to consult with the other members of the Committee.

Drilon said he would “strongly endorse such a suggestion to come up with a reasonable solution” because he did not want to have to go to the Supreme Court to settle the matter.

Among others, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the Philippine Bar Association (PBA), the University of the Philippines College of Law alumni, and the Ateneo de Manila College of Law have agreed that the President’s memo was unconstitutional.

Citing executive privilege, President Duterte justified his controversial, insisting the Blue Ribbon was wasting the Cabinet officials’ time as they were all busy attending to the pandemic still raging in the countryside.

Presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo said the officials’ attendance at the Blue Ribbon hearings has started to “cripple” the government’s efforts to control the pandemic.

But the IBP said the hearings were necessary because the government had to fight corruption and the President appeared to be obstructing the efforts to get to the bottom of the multi-billion peso supply contract won by Pharmally, which was not only newly formed but which was also operating at an operating capital far below the necessary amount needed to handle such a deal.

While Senate president back in 2005, Drilon had challenged then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s claim of executive privilege to prevent her Cabinet from attending Senate hearings.

When the Senate took the matter to the Supreme Court (SC), the high tribunal decided in favor of the legislature and ruled that Cabinet members must attend Senate hearings in aid of legislation.

The SC said executive privilege may only be invoked on matters of national security, military or diplomatic secrets, or private conversations with the president.

Blue Ribbon Chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said none of the reasons were present as the Senate was simply performing its oversight functions.

The panel is probing the alleged irregular transfer of funds from the Department of Health to the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service, which in turn authorized the purchase of pandemic materials from Pharmally.

Among others, the Blue Ribbon has determined that Pharmally does not actually manufacture pandemic supplies but only acts as a middle man or purchasing agent.

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