Press Release
January 5, 2021

As Duterte invokes executive privilege to bar PSG from testifying, Drilon says Senate can elicit information from other sources
The minority leader says the reported vaccination in the country of around 100,000 POGO workers strengthens need for investigation in aid of legislation to strengthen FDA and Customs

The President can invoke executive privilege to prevent the Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander from appearing before Congress, but the order should not stop Congress from performing its constitutionally mandated duty to investigate in aid of legislation the entry and use of illegal and unauthorized China-made Covid-19 vaccines in the country.

"The President, in effect, is invoking executive privilege, which is a recognized power of the President. It is a valid exercise of the power of the President under Executive Order 464, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in the case of Senate of the Philippines v. Ermita," Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.

"But to investigate in aid of legislation is also a valid exercise of legislative power. There is no preventing Congress from eliciting information in aid of legislation from other resource persons. Congress can exact information on matters that can help it craft better legislation," Drilon emphasized.

In light of the news reports of nearly 100,000 POGO workers in the country who were allegedly inoculated in the country using a China-made vaccine illegally imported into the country, Drilon said "the Senate must exercise its mandate to look deeply into the issue in order to plug the loopholes in the law granting authority to the Food and Drugs Administration."

"The Senate should continue with the hearing, especially in the light of the revelation that 100,000 POGO workers were inoculated in the country. That is illegal. In aid of legislation, the Senate must elicit information from other sources on how to strengthen the FDA and the Bureau of Customs to prevent similar episodes in the future," he added.

Drilon recalled that this is not the first that executive privilege is invoked. He cited Executive Order 464 issued by then former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005, which required all heads of departments of the Executive Branch to secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before any congressional probe.

However, the former executive and justice secretary said such power is limited to certain types of information as laid down in EO 464 and ruled in Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, which include Presidential conversations, correspondences, and discussions in closed-door Cabinet meetings. The Court also held that information on military and diplomatic secrets and those affecting national security, and information on investigations of crimes by law enforcement agencies before the prosecution of the accused were exempted from the right to information.

The Congress power of inquiry is expressly recognized in Section 21 of Article VI of the Constitution which states that "the Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected."

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