G.R. No. 174340; G.R. No. 174318; G.R. No. 174177 – 504 SCRA 704 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department – Legislative Powers – Contempt Power; Inquiry in aid of legislation
On February 20, 2006, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago introduced Senate Res. No. 455 directing an inquiry in aid of legislation on the anomalous losses incurred by the Philippines Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (POTC), Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (PHILCOMSAT), and PHILCOMSAT Holdings Corporation (PHC) due to the alleged improprieties in their operations by their respective Board of Directors. Pursuant to this, on May 8, 2006, Senator Richard Gordon, wrote Chairman Camilo Sabio of the PCGG inviting him to be one of the resource persons in the public meeting jointly conducted by the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises and Committee on Public Services. Chairman Sabio declined the invitation because of prior commitment. At the same time, he invoked Section 4(b) of E.O. No. 1 “No member or staff of the Commission shall be required to testify or produce evidence in any judicial, legislative or administrative proceeding concerning matters within its official cognizance.” Apparently, the purpose is to ensure PCGG’s unhampered performance of its task. Gordon’s Subpoena Ad Testificandum was repeatedly ignored by Sabio hence he threatened Sabio to be cited in contempt.
ISSUE: Whether or not Section 4 of EO No. 1 is constitutional.
HELD: No. It can be said that the Congress’ power of inquiry has gained more solid existence and expansive construal. The Court’s high regard to such power is rendered more evident in Senate v. Ermita, where it categorically ruled that “the power of inquiry is broad enough to cover officials of the executive branch.” Verily, the Court reinforced the doctrine in Arnault that “the operation of government, being a legitimate subject for legislation, is a proper subject for investigation” and that “the power of inquiry is co-extensive with the power to legislate”. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.
Article III, Section 7
The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.
These twin provisions of the Constitution seek to promote transparency in policy-making and in the operations of the government, as well as provide the people sufficient information to enable them to exercise effectively their constitutional rights. Armed with the right information, citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the formulation of government policies and their effective implementation.