PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — BOWING to pressures from various sectors, President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday revoked Executive Order 464.
In a statement read by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, the President said “executive officials may no longer invoke EO 464 to excuse non-attendance from legislative inquiries.”
“Executive officials are instructed to abide by the Constitution, existing laws and jurisprudence when invited to legislative inquiries,” Mrs. Arroyo said.
Bunye said the President announced the scrapping of EO 464 when she met members of influential religious groups yesterday afternoon. Majority of those present at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas were members of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Bunye however did not identify the bishops who were in the meeting. “We are not at liberty to disclose who attended the meeting. We have to honor their request,” he told reporters.
The scrapping of EO 464 also effectively abolishes Memorandum Circular 108, which sets the guidelines on appearances of department heads and other officials of the executive department before Congress.
Under MC 108, concerned officials invited to congressional hearings should require advance information of the topics to be discussed during the actual hearings before responding to the summons. The directive also lists specific issues which officials could not touch on in open inquiries.
Bunye said Cabinet officials can now decide on their own whether or not to honor invitations for them to attend legislative investigations.
Cabinet and other government officials called to legislative inquiries on alleged irregularities in government had been invoking EO 464, which barred them from attending congressional inquiries without prior approval from the President, for their refusal to attend the Senate probe of the national broadband project mess.
The CBCP, after an emergency meeting last week, recommended the abolition of EO 464. It made the proposal amid the furor triggered by the testimony of former Philippine Forest Corp. president Rodolfo Noel Lozada regarding alleged anomalies behind the national broadband deal with ZTE Corp.
In a statement after its emergency meeting, the CBCP urged the President to revoke EO 464 “so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies.”
Bishops also asked Mrs. Arroyo “to allow her subordinates to reveal any corrupt acts, particularly about the ZTE-NBN deal, without being obstructed in their testimony no matter who is involved.”
Vice President Noli de Castro, civil society groups, some administration lawmakers and even the friends and former classmates of the President also called for the scrapping of the controversial order.