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Case Digest: Romulo L. Neri vs. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, et. al. G.R.

No. 180643 25 March 2008 FACTS: On April 21, 2007, the DOTC entered into a contract with ZTE for the supply of equipment and services for the NBN Project in the amount of nearly Php6B and was to be financed by the Republic of China. Several Resolutions regarding the investigation and implications on national security and government-xto-government contracts regarding the NBN Project were introduced in Senate. Respondent Committees initiated the investigation by sending invitations to certain personalities and cabinet officials involved in the NBN Project. Petitioner was summoned to appear and he testified to the Committees for eleven (11) hours, but refused to answer three important questions, invoking his right to executive privilege. For failing to appear in the other days that he was summoned, Neri was held in contempt. ISSUES: Whether Neri can invoke executive privilege; Whether the invocation of executive privilege violate Sec. 28, Art. II and Sec. 7, Art. III; and Whether the Committees gravely abused their discretion by holding Neri in contempt. RULING: The communications elicited by the three questions are covered by executive privilege. Despite the revocation of E.O. 464, there is a recognized claim of executive privilege. The privilege is said to be a necessary guarantee of presidential advisors to provide the President and those who assist him with freedom to explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions and to do so in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately. Furthermore, the claim was properly invoked by the letter provided by Executive Secretary Ermita stating the precise and certain reason that the said information may impair the countrys diplomatic as well as economic relations with the Republic of China. The petitioner was able to appear in at least one of the days where he was summoned and expressly manifested his willingness to answer more questions from the Senators, with the exception only of those covered by his claim of executive privilege. The right to public information and full public disclosure of transactions, like any other right, is subject to limitation. These include those that are classified by the body of jurisprudence as highly confidential. The information subject to this case belongs to such kind. The Committees violated Sec. 21, Art. VI of the Constitution for having failed to publish its Rules of Procedure. Inquiries are required to be in accordance with the duly published rules of procedure. Without these, the aid of legislation are procedurally infirm.