Senate v Ermita Digest
Senate v Ermita Digest...
SENATE v ERMITA (Question Hour) PONENTE: Carpio-Morales, J. DOCTRINE: Non-legislative powers: Question Hour NATURE: Special Civil Actions in the SC. Certiorari and Prohibition. FACTS: Even in the early history of republican thought, it has been recognized that the head of government may keep certain information confidential in pursuit of the public interest. However, the fact that the power to withhold information lends itself to abuse, hence, the necessity to guard it zealously. (1) The present consolidated petitions alleged that the President has abused it’s power by issuing EO 464 on Sept. 28, 2005; thus, praying that it be declared null and void for being unconstitutional. (2) The Court, in resolving the controversy, stated that there is a presumption of constitutionality since the issuance came from a coequal branch of government. Once the order is found to indeed by violative of the Constitution, it is duty-bound to declare it so; because the Constitution, being the highest law of the land, must prevail over any government issuance. (3) In the exercise of its legislative power, the Senate through various Committees conducts inquiries or investigations, which call for the attendance of officials and employees of the Executive Dept., bureaus and offices (including those in GOCCs, AFP, and PNP. (4) [NORTHRAIL ISSUE] Thus, the Senate Committee invited various officials of the Executive Dept. to appear as resource speakers in a public hearing on Sept. 29 on the railway project of the “NorthRail Project” (North Luzon Railways Corp. with the China National Machinery and Equipment Group,) sparked by Sen. Enrile urging the Senate to investigate the alleged overpricing and other unlawful provisions of the NorthRail Project contract. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita requested for a postponement of hearing in order to give officials ample time and opportunity to study and prepare for the issues to help Senate Committee on its investigation. Said request was to no avail bec. Senate President Drilon said it was “sent belatedly” and that preparations and arrangements, and notices to all resource persons were already completed. President of North Luzon Railways Corp. also requested postponement or cancellation until a copy of the report of the UP Law Center on the contract agreements relative to the project had been secured.
(5) [WIRETAPPING ISSUE] The Senate Committee on National Defense and Security likewise invited several AFP officials to appear as resource speakers in a public hearing on Sept. 28 on the following: 1. Privilege speeches (Author and titles): a. Sen. Pimentel à “Bunye has Provided Smoking Gun or has Opened a Can of Worms that Show Massive Electoral Fraud in the Presidential Election of May 2005” b. Sen. Estrada à “The Philippines as the Wire-Tapping Capital of the World” c. Sen. Biazon à “Clear and Present Danger” 2. Senate Resolutions a. Sen. Madrigal à Directing Committee on National Defense and Security to conduct an inquiry on the role of the military in the socalled Gloriagate Scandal, in aid of legislation and in the national interest. b. Sen. Biazon à Directing Committee on National Defense and Security to conduct an inquiry on the Wiretapping of the President, in aid of legislation. AFP Chief of Staff requested a postponement due to his and some invited AFP officers to attend. (6) On Sept. 28, the President issued EO 464, which pursuant to Sec. 6 thereof, took effect immediately. The provisions include: a. SEC. 1— In accordance with Art. 6, Sec. 22 of the Consti on the Separation of Powers of the branches, all heads of Exec. Departments shall secure consent of the President prior to appearing before either House of Congress. b. SEC. 2— (a.) Nature and Scope: Exec. Privilege covers all confidential or classified info between the Pres. and public officers covered by this EO. (b.) List of those covered by the EO. c. SEC. 3— All public officials enumerated in Sec. 2(b) hereof shall secure prior consent of the President prior to appearing before either House of Congress, to ensure observance of the principle of separation of powers, adherence to the rule on executive privilege and respect for the rights of public officials appearing in inquiries in aid of legislation. (7) Also on Sept. 28, Drilon received: a. A copy of EO 464 b. A letter informing him that pursuant to EO 464, “officials of the Exec Dept invited to appear at the North Rail Project meeting will not be able to attend without consent of the President. That officials have not yet secured the required consent from the Pres. (8) On Sept 28, scheduled hearing date of the alleged Wiretapping, a letter was also sent to the National Defense and Security Committee stating that “per instruction of Pres. Arroyo, no officer of the AFP is authorized to appear before any Senate or Congressional hearings without seeking a written approval from the President, and no approval has been granted as to said hearing.
(9) Despite all the notices received, the investigation pushed through w only 2 AFP officials in attendance. For disobedience to Pres. Arroyo’s order not to testify before legislative inquiries without her approval, both were relieved from their military posts and made to face court martial proceedings. (10) As to NorthRail project hearing, Exec. Secretary Ermita and NorthRail President sent personal regrets, citing EO 464. (11) On Oct 3, 2003, 3 petitions challenging the constitutionality of EO 464 were docked. A series of petitions subsequently followed (#4-6): 1. GR 169659 – petitioners party-list Bayan Muna, COURAGE (organization of governmental employees) and CODAL (Counsels for the Defense of Liberties) claim EO 464 to be unconstitutional; a. Bayan Muna à Right as a political party entitled to participation in governance. b. Satur Ocampo, et al à Rights and duties as members of the Congress to conduct investigation in aid of legislation and conduct oversight functions in the implementation of laws c. COURAGE à Tenure of its members in public office is predicated on and threatened by submission to the requirement of EO should they be summoned to Congress; Right to information and transparent governance. 2. GR No. 169660 -‐ Chavez claimed constitutional rights as taxpayer, citizen, and law practitioner claims constitutional rights are violated 3. GR No. 169667 – Alternative Law Groups (ALG) claimed right to information of the public is denied by EO 464 4. GR No.169777 – On Oct. 11, 2005, petitioner Senate filed petition, claiming that EO 464 has prevented the exercise of the power of the Senate to perform investigations in aid of legislation 5. GR No. 169834 – On Oct 14, 2005, PDP-‐LABAN alleged that EO 464 hampers the legislative agenda of its members in Congress, particularly in the conduct of investigations in aid of legislation 6. GR No.171246 – On Feb 13, 2006, Cadiz and incumbent members of the Boards of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Phils. (IBP) invoked the right to information of the public, which is allegedly denied by EO 464. As petitions were being filed, Senate continued to hold several hearings inviting military officers, cabinet officials, and other officials; all to no avail due to lack of clearance from President pursuant to EO 464. (12) All the petitioners pray for the issuance of a TRO enjoining respondents from implementing, enforcing, and observing EO 464.
ISSUES: § W/N Attendance in a Question Hour is mandatory. (NO) § W/N Sec 1 and 3 of EO 464 requiring the department heads covered by them to secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before Congress are VALID. (YES) HELD (*#1 is semi-irrelevant to Question Hour, but kind of important in case. Skip as you wish.) (1) Before anything else, Court must determine W/N Court can validly exercise power of judicial review. Requisites are: a. Actual case or controversy b. Legal standing of person challenging (personal and substantial interest) c. Question of constutionality must be raised at earliest opportunity d. Issue on constitutionality must be the list mota of the case à Case only discusses first 2 requisites; last 2 omitted. Legal Standing Senate and party list representatives (Bayan Muna, CODAL and COURAGE): Have substantial and direct interest in the outcome of the case as EO 464 infringes on their constitutional rights and duties as members of Congress to conduct investigation in aid of legislation and conduct oversight functions in the implementing of laws Chavez and ALG: Have standing because a public right is involved and the mere fact that they are citizens satisfies the requirement of personal interest PDP-Laban: Bereft of standing to file its petition because they just have “generalized interest” which it shares with the rest of the political parties; No concrete injury. The Senate has a fundamental right essential not only for intelligent public decisionmaking in a democratic system, but more especially for sound legislation. EO allegedly stifles the ability of the members of Congress to access information that is crucial to law-making. Legislators have standing to maintain inviolate the prerogative, powers, and privileges vested by the Constitution in their office and allowed to question validity of any official action infringing their prerogatives as legislators.
Actual case or controversy? (YES, there is) Petitioners: Assert that an actual case exists, they citing the absence of the executive officials invited by the Senate to its hearings after the issuance of E.O. 464, particularly those on the NorthRail project and the wiretapping controversy. Respondents counter: There is no showing that President Arroyo has actually withheld her consent or prohibited the appearance of the invited officials. The officials invited merely said that they have not secured consent, not that the President prohibited their attendance. Previous instructions not to attend without Pres.’s consent was based on AFP Commander-in-Chief’s role, not on EO 464. (such BS me thinks) Supreme Court: Whether the president withheld her consent or prohibited the appearance of officials is immaterial because E.O. 464 does not require either a deliberate withholding of consent or an express prohibition issuing from the President in order to bar officials from appearing before Congress. Also, the implementation of the challenged order has already resulted in the absence of officials invited to the hearings of petitioner Senate of the Philippines. (2) QUESTION HOUR: A. What is Question Hour? Hilario Davide: ”“[Section 22] pertains to the power to conduct a question hour, the objective of which is to obtain information in pursuit of Congress’ oversight function.” In the context of the parliamentary system of government, the question hour is a period of confrontation initiated by Parliament to hold the Prime Minister and the other ministers accountable for their acts and the operation of the government. The objective of the question hour is to obtain information in pursuit of Congress’ oversight function. B. Power of Congress: Power of Inquiry (Sec 21) v. Question Hour (Sec 22): - Sec 21 (Attendance is MANDATORY) à Power to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, the aim of which is to elicit information that may be used for legislation - Sec 22 (Attendance is DISCRETIONARY) à Power to conduct a question hour, the objective of which is to obtain information in pursuit of Congress’ oversight function. When Congress merely seeks to be informed on how department heads are implementing the statutes, which it has issued, its right to such information is not as imperative as that of the President to whom, as Chief Executive, such department heads must give a report of their performance as a matter of duty. In such instances, Section 22, in keeping with the separation of powers, states that Congress may only request their appearance.
*Rule of Sec 21: When the inquiry in which Congress requires their appearance is in aid of legislation under Section 21, the appearance is mandatory for the same reasons stated in Arnault. In fine, the oversight function of Congress may be facilitated by compulsory process only to the extent that it is performed in pursuit of legislation. This is consistent with the intent discerned from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission. *Power of Inquiry under Sec 21: Ultimately, the power of Congress to compel the appearance of executive officials under Section 21 and the lack of it under Section 22 find their basis in the principle of separation of powers. While the executive branch is a co-equal branch of the legislature, it cannot frustrate the power of Congress to legislate by refusing to comply with its demands for information. When Congress exercises its power of inquiry, the only way for department heads to exempt themselves therefrom is by a valid claim of privilege C. Section 1 and 3 of EO 464 both require the officials covered by them to secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before Congress. Section 1 is grounded on Sec 22, Art 6 (Question Hour) Sec 1 of E.O. 464, in view of its specific reference to Section 22 of Article VI of the Constitution and the absence of any reference to inquiries in aid of legislation, must be construed as limited in its application to appearances of department heads in the question hour contemplated in said Section 22, but could not be applied to appearances of department heads in inquiries in aid of legislation; The requirement to secure presidential consent under Section 1, limited as it is only to appearances in the question hour, is valid on its face. The framers of the 1987 Constitution removed the mandatory nature of such appearance during the question hour in the present Constitution so as to conform more fully to a system of separation of powers. To that extent, the question hour, as it is presently understood in this jurisdiction, departs from the question period of the parliamentary system. That department heads may not be required to appear in a question hour does not, however, mean that the legislature is rendered powerless to elicit information from them in all circumstances. In fact, in light of the absence of a mandatory question period, the need to enforce Congress’ right to executive information in the performance of its legislative function becomes more imperative. SUMMARY: In a Question Hour, information is not imperative; therefore, only attendance by department heads is discretionary/voluntary, pursuant to Art 6 Sec 22. Further, pursuant to EO 464 Sec 1, requires officials to secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before Congress. WHEREFORE, Sec 1 and 2(a) are VALID.