Rule of law must prevail in times of pandemic – Gordon
Senator Richard J. Gordon has underscored the importance of all governments to respect the rule of law in addressing the scourge of COVID-19 pandemic, especially in protecting the people against abuses, rapacity, and abuse of power.
Speaking before an international “2021 Open Parliament Forum” last Dec. 3, Gordon said it is the duty of Congress, notably the Senate, to exercise its oversight function to ensure that public funds are judiciously spent and well accounted for.
“[W]e are tasked to perform the act of protecting the Senate, of protecting the institutions of the Constitution, maintaining our duty to balance the powers and most importantly, of ultimately protecting the people from corruption, rapacity, and abuse of power which run counter sometimes presidential acts,” he said.
“We act not merely to assert our Constitutional prerogatives, but also to ensure that the balance of powers remain stable, which is the very essence of democracy,” he added.
The two-day forum was organized by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United States' National Democratic Institute chaired by former US State Secretary Madeleine Albright.
Other speakers included Australia House of Representatives MP Kevin Andrews, Open Government Partnership Deputy Director for Country Support Shreya Basu, Deputy Director and the R&D Advisor in Chief, 21st Century Foundation, R.O.C. (Taiwan) Dr. Chou Yun-tsai, and Lukas Savickas, Member of Seimas, Lithuania.
It was also graced with the presence of R.O.C. (Taiwan) President Tsai Ing-wen, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, UK House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, former Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, among other foreign parliamentarians and academicians.
Gordon, who chairs the Philippine Senate Committee on Public Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (Blue Ribbon), pointed out that Congress should assert the principles of separation of powers and its power of checks and balances, especially against populist leaders.
“The rise of populist leaders throughout the world who try again and again to erode traditional and constitutional balance, attempting to arrogate unto themselves powers and privileges constitutionally allocated to other departments does not augur well for our future,” he said.
“Now is a time better than any for those of us, upon whom our laws have assigned mandates and duties to perform, to ensure that the balance is maintained; and where the balance is skewed, to ensure that the balance is restored,” he added.
In the performance of its oversight function, Gordon explained that the Senate has encountered numerous problems in its current inquiry on government’s anomalous procurement deals of pandemic response medical supplies and equipment.
He cited these obstacles as the uncooperative witnesses, their refusal to submit pertinent documents, personal attacks, and a presidential directing barring attendance of Cabinet officials that have slowed down proceedings.
“[W]e did not stop with our investigations. We surged on despite the President’s diatribe against my person and the Senate as an institution, public insults, and even threats, for we believe that the power to investigate is not merely an exercise of discretionary competence on the part of Congress,” he said.
“Rather, it is a duty imposed on us by the Constitution, and by the people who have elected us to public office,” he stressed.
It may be recalled that Gordon has issued several contempt charges against several officials of PharmallyPharmaceutical Corporation, including the detention of two of its top executives at Pasay City jail for refusal to cooperate.
Gordon has continued gained the public trust by pushing for the improvement in government’s pandemic response, putting emphasis on the welfare of healthcare workers, among others.
He made sure that PhP50 billion would be earmarked in the Department of Health’s 2022 budget, appropriated for the healthcare worker’s special risk allowance in recognition of their heroic effort in preserving human lives during the pandemic.