Philippine leader asks officials to ignore corruption probe

Philippine leader asks officials to ignore corruption probe

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In this photo taken from video shown at United Nations headquarters, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, president of the Philippines, remotely addresses the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, Tuesday Sept. 21, 2021. (UN Web TV via … more >

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By Jim Gomez

Associated Press

Friday, October 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippine president says he will prohibit Cabinet officials from attending an ongoing Senate inquiry on suspected irregularities in massive government purchases of medical supplies in a brewing constitutional crisis.

President Rodrigo Duterte told Cabinet members in a televised meeting Thursday night that he‘ll issue a written order barring them and other officials, including three secretaries dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, from attending the inquiry.

The tough-talking president accused critical senators of using the televised hearings to gain political mileage ahead of next year’s national, local and congressional elections.

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He said Sen. Richard Gordon, who leads the inquiry, has failed to produce any evidence of corruption in government purchases of protective masks and face shields after several hearings and had berated invited guests like a “despot.”

“That power to compel people to be there does not include abuse, does not include despotic ways, does not include making a very reckless but deliberate statement which is an affront to the constitution when you say, `I will conduct the investigation until kingdom come,’” Duterte said.

If Cabinet officials ignore Senate summons and are ordered arrested for contempt, Duterte said he would order the police and the military to refrain from helping the Senate sergeant-at-arms enforce the arrests.

“I’m the commander-in-chief anyway of all uniformed personnel of government. I am ordering the police and the military and everybody to stay out of this trouble. Do not get involved, don’t follow, because we have a crisis already,” Duterte said.

Gordon’s committee has been investigating what he and other senators said were the overpricing and other possible irregularities in purchases of masks and other medical supplies from a Philippine company, the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

Registered in 2019 with a capital of 625,000 pesos ($12,500), the company managed to secure multi-billion-peso (multi-million-dollar) government contracts to supply the gear as the Duterte administration scrambled to deal with coronavirus surges last year.

A Chinese businessman, who Duterte once appointed as an economic adviser, has been linked to Pharmally as a financier of the medical supplies the company purchased from China and eventually supplied to the Philippine government, Gordon and other senators said, citing testimony from a company official.

Duterte and Pharmally officials have denied allegations the supplies were overpriced. Duterte has also said he authorized health officials to skip the required bidding to deal with the pandemic.

Duterte has shot back by publicly accusing Gordon of misusing funds as chairman of the local Red Cross, an allegation the senator dismissed. Gordon criticized Duterte for defending government and company officials who have been linked to the irregularities and said the Senate investigation wound not be deterred by the president’s threats.

Rodrigo Duterte threatens to arrest Filipinos who refuse vaccination

Duterte threatens to arrest Filipinos who refuse vaccination

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A health worker inoculates a man with China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination and told … more >

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By

Associated Press

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination and told them to leave the country if they would not cooperate with efforts to end a public health emergency.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric, said in televised remarks Monday night that he has become exasperated with people who refuse to get immunized amid a health crisis then help spread the coronavirus.

“Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested, and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt,” Duterte said.

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“If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,” he said, adding he would order village leaders to compile a list of defiant residents.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra acknowledged on Tuesday that there was no Philippine law criminalizing refusal to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

“I believe that the president merely used strong words to drive home the need for us to get vaccinated and reach herd immunity as soon as possible,” Guevarra said.

A human rights lawyer, Edre Olalia, raised concerns over Duterte‘s threat, saying the president could not order the arrest of anybody who has not clearly committed any crime.

Duterte and his administration have faced criticism over a vaccination campaign that has been saddled with supply problems and public hesitancy. After repeated delays, vaccinations started in March, but many still opted to wait for Western vaccines, prompting some cities to offer snacks and store discounts to encourage people to get immunized with any vaccine. 

Duterte blamed the problem on wealthy Western countries cornering vaccines for their own citizens, leaving poorer countries like the Philippines behind. Some officials said the bigger problem was inadequate vaccine supply more than public hesitancy.

Duterte also walked back on an earlier remark that required people to wear plastic face shields over face masks only in hospitals as an added safeguard. After experts briefed him on the threat of more contagious coronavirus variants, Duterte declared it mandatory for people to continue wearing face shields indoors and outdoors.

 The Philippines is a COVID-19 hotspot in Asia, with more than 1.3 million cases and at least 23,749 deaths.