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The powers of Congress are classified as follows:

Legislative power in general.

Legislative power in general refers to the power to enact laws, which includes the
power to alter or repeal them. Said power starts formally from the time a bill or a
proposed law is introduced by a member of the House of Representatives or a
Senator. Once approved by Congress, and the President, the said bill becomes a law.

Specific legislative powers.

These are the powers expressly conferred by the Constitution. They are: power of
appropriation, power taxation and power of expropriation.

Non-legislative powers.

These are the powers which are not basically legislative in nature but which are
performed by Congress. Examples are power to propose amendments to the
Constitution, power to impeach, power to canvass presidential elections and power
to declare the existence of a state of war.

Implied powers.

These are the powers which are not expressly conferred by the Constitution but
which are implied from those expressly granted. Examples are: power to punish a
person in contempt during or in the course of legislative investigation and power to
issue summons and notices in connection with matters subject of its investigation or

Inherent powers

These are the powers which are inherent to the exercise of legislative powers like
the power to determine the rules of its proceedings.
Congressional Oversight
the power of oversight embraces all activities undertaken by Congress to enhance
its understanding of and influence over the implementation of legislation it has
enacted. Clearly, oversight concerns post-enactment measures undertaken by
(a) to monitor bureaucratic compliance with program objectives,
(b) to determine whether agencies are properly administered,
(c) to eliminate executive waste and dishonesty, (d) to prevent executive usurpation
of legislative authority, and

(e) to assess executive conformity with the congressional perception of public

The power of oversight has been held to be intrinsic in the grant of legislative power
itself and integral to the checks and balances inherent in a democratic system of
The Senate Committees
At the core of Congress lawmaking, investigative and oversight functions lies the
committee system. This is so because much of the business of Congress, it has
been well said, is done in the committee. Specific problems, whether local or
national in scope, are initially brought to the forum of congressional committees
where they are subjected to rigid and thorough discussions.
Congressional hearings and investigations on matters dealing with every field of
legislative concern have frequently been conducted by congressional committees.
Legislative Oversight
Legislative oversight is the process by which Congress takes an active role in
understanding, monitoring and evaluating the performance of state bodies and
instrumentalities and applies this knowledge to its three other functions, namely,
making laws and public policy, setting budgets, and raising revenues,
The acts done by Congress purportedly in the exercise of its oversight powers may
be divided into three categories:
(1) Supervision, which connotes a continuing and informed awareness on the part of
a congressional committee regarding executive operations in a given administrative
(2) Scrutiny, primarily intended to determine economy and efficiency of the
operation of government activities, exercised through budget hearings, the
"question hour" and the power of confirmation; and
(3) Investigation, which is also known as the inquiry in aid of legislation

Power of Legislative Inquiry and Investigation

The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective Committee,
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.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee is an example. The power of inquiry and
investigation exists not only to enable Congress to discharge effectively its primarily
legislative and law-making functions.

Passage of a Bill
A bill is essentially a proposed law by the legislative department. Each house may
propose a bill, when the House of Representatives proposes one, it shall be called a
House Bill, and when the Senate initiates a proposal, it shall be called a Senate Bill.

What is the basis the power of inquiry in

aid of legislation?

The Congressional power of inquiry is

expressly recognized in Section 21 of
Article VI of the Constitution:

SECTION 21. 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.
Even without this express Constitutional
provision, the power of inquiry is inherent
in the power to legislate. The power of
inquiry, with process to enforce it, is
grounded on the necessity of information
in the legislative process. If the
information possessed by executive
officials on the operation of their offices is
necessary for wise legislation on that
subject, by parity of reasoning, Congress
has the right to that information and the
power to compel the disclosure thereof.

that makes the congressional right to

obtain information from the executive so
essential, if the functions of the Congress
as the elected representatives of the
people are adequately to be carried out.

Is the Supreme Court covered by the

Congressional power of inquiry?

No. Members of the Supreme Court are

exempt from this power of inquiry on the
basis not only of separation of powers but
also on the fiscal autonomy and the
constitutional independence of the

Is the power of inquiry subject to judicial


Yes. It may be subjected to judicial review

pursuant to the Supreme Courts certiorari
powers under Section 1, Article VIII of the
Constitution. Since the right of Congress to
conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation is,
in theory, no less susceptible to abuse
than executive or judicial power.

Why is inquiry in aid of legislation

important under the separation of powers?
Is the President covered by the power of
Under the separation of powers, Congress
has the right to obtain information from
any source even from officials of
departments and agencies in the
executive branch. It is this very separation

No. The President, on whom executive

power is vested, is beyond the reach of
Congress, except through the power of

impeachment. It is based on the

Presidents position as the highest official
of the executive branch, and the due
respect accorded to a co-equal branch of
government which is sanctioned by a longstanding custom.

Does the power to inquire extend to

officials in the executive branch?

Yes. The power of inquiry is broad enough

to cover officials of the executive branch.
The power of inquiry is co-extensive with
the power to legislate. The matters which
may be a proper subject of legislation and
those which may be a proper subject of
investigation are one. It follows that the
operation of government, being a
legitimate subject for legislation, is a
proper subject for investigation. Since
Congress has authority to inquire into the
operations of the executive branch, it
would be incongruous to hold that the
power of inquiry does not extend to
executive officials who are the most
familiar with and informed on executive

Are there limitations to this power? If yes,

what are these limitations?

Yes. As now contained in the 1987

Constitution (Section 21, Article VI), the
power of Congress to investigate is
circumscribed by three limitations,
namely: (a) it must be in aid of its
legislative functions, (b) it must be
conducted in accordance with duly
published rules of procedure, and (c) the
persons appearing therein are afforded
their constitutional rights, including the
right to be represented by counsel and the
right against self-incrimination.

exemptions fall under the rubric of

executive privilege.

What is executive privilege?

Executive privilege is not a clear or unitary

concept, although it has been defined as
the power of the Government to withhold
information from the public, the courts,
and the Congress or the right of the
President and high-level executive branch
officers to withhold information from
Congress, the courts, and ultimately the

Does executive privilege refer to persons?

No. Executive privilege is properly invoked

in relation to specific categories of
information and not to categories of
persons. Executive privilege, whether
asserted against Congress, the courts, or
the public, is recognized only in relation to
certain types of information of a sensitive

What matters are covered by executive


The matters covered under executive

privilege include: (1) Information between
inter-government agencies prior to the
conclusion of treaties and executive
agreements; (2) Presidential
conversations, correspondences, and
discussions in closed-door Cabinet
meetings; and (3) Matters affecting
national security and public order.

How is this invoked?

In addition, even where the inquiry is in
aid of legislation, there are still recognized
exemptions to the power of inquiry, which

When an official is being summoned by

Congress on a matter which, in his own
judgment, might be covered by executive

privilege, he must be afforded reasonable

time to inform the President or the
Executive Secretary of the possible need
for invoking the privilege. This is
necessary in order to provide the President
or the Executive Secretary with fair
opportunity to consider whether the
matter indeed calls for a claim of
executive privilege. If, after the lapse of
that reasonable time, neither the President
nor the Executive Secretary invokes the
privilege, Congress is no longer bound to
respect the failure of the official to appear
before Congress and may then opt to avail
of the necessary legal means to compel
his appearance.

SECTION 22. The heads of departments

may upon their own initiative, with the
consent of the President, or upon the
request of either House, as the rules of
each House shall provide, appear before
and be heard by such House on any
matter pertaining to their departments.
Written questions shall be submitted to
the President of the Senate or the Speaker
of the House of Representatives at least
three days before their scheduled
appearance. Interpellations shall not be
limited to written questions, but may
cover matters related thereto. When the
security of the State or the public interest
so requires and the President so states in
writing, the appearance shall be
conducted in executive session.

Is an implied claim of executive privilege


Is the power of inquiry in aid of legislation

the same as the Question Hour?

No. A claim of privilege, being a claim of

exemption from an obligation to disclose
information, must be clearly asserted. An
implied claim of privilege is invalid per se.
The validity of claims of privilege must be
assessed on a case to case basis,
examining the ground invoked therefore,
and the particular circumstances
surrounding it.

No. Section 21 (inquiry in aid of

legislation) and Section 22 (question hour)
of Article VI of the Constitution are closely
related and complementary to each other,
but they do not pertain to the same power
of Congress. One specifically relates to the
power to conduct inquiries in aid of
legislation, the aim of which is to elicit
information that may be used for
legislation, while the other pertains to the
power to conduct a question hour, the
objective of which is to obtain information
in pursuit of the oversight function of
Congress. While attendance was meant to
be discretionary in the question hour, it
was compulsory in inquiries in aid of

What is the Question Hour?

In the context of a 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,
corresponding to what is known in Britain
as the question period. 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. This is provided in
Article VI, Section 22 of the Constitution:

If a person is cited in contempt and

imprisoned in relation to the Congressional
exercise of inquiry in aid of legislation,
how long will the imprisonment last?

This is tackled by the Supreme Court in

Arnault vs. Nazareno, where the petitioner
argued that the Senate lacks authority to
commit him for contempt for a term
beyond its period of legislative session.
According to the Supreme Court:

That investigation has not been completed
because of the refusal of the petitioner as
a witness to answer certain questions
pertinent to the subject of the inquiry. The
Senate has empowered the committee to
continue the investigation during the
recess. By refusing to answer the
questions, the witness has obstructed the
performance by the Senate of its
legislative function, and the Senate has
the power to remove the obstruction by
compelling the witness to answer the
questions thru restraint of his liberty until
he shall have answered them. That power
subsists as long as the Senate, which is a
continuing body, persists in performing
the particular legislative function involved.
To hold that it may punish the witness for
contempt only during the session in which
investigation was begun, would be to
recognize the right of the Senate to
perform its function but at the same time
to deny to it an essential and appropriate
means for its performance. Aside from
this, if we should hold that the power to
punish for contempt terminates upon the
adjournment of the session, the Senate
would have to resume the investigation at
the next and succeeding sessions and
repeat the contempt proceedings against
the witness until the investigation is
completed-an absurd, unnecessary, and
vexatious procedure, which should be

As against the foregoing conclusion it is

argued for the petitioner that the power
may be abusively and oppressively
exerted by the Senate which might keep
the witness in prison for life. But we must
assume that the Senate will not be
disposed to exert the power beyond its
proper bounds. And if, contrary to this
assumption, proper limitations are
disregarded, the portals of this Court are
always open to those whose rights might
thus be transgressed.

Congress may conduct investigations

and compel private individuals to
furnish information when necessary
and proper to execute Congress
authority to legislate. When relevant
to legislative ends, Congress may
make inquiries into existent and
proposed statutes, as well as make
surveys of social, economic, or
political defects. Where public
interests outweigh private concerns, a
congressional witnessmay not resist
inquiry into pertinent subject matter of
which the witness is apprised.

B. Limitations on Power of Inquiry

Because it is not a law enforcement or
trial agency, Congress faces certain
limitations on its authority to
investigate. For example, Congress
may not:
Expose individuals private affairs for
purposes outside the furtherance of
legislative goals;
Inquire into matters exclusive to
another governmental branch; or
Compel a groups disclosure of its
membership where:
a. Such disclosure would seriously
inhibit or impair exercise of
constitutional rights, and
b. The legislature has not convincingly
shown a substantial relation between
the information sought and a subject
of overriding and compelling
governmental interest.


Either House or any of their committees may conduct inquires in aid of legislation.
In aid of legislation does not mean that there is pending legislation regarding the subject
of the inquiry. In fact, investigation may be needed for purposes of proposing future
If the stated purpose of the investigation is to determine the existence of violations of the
law, the investigation is no longer in aid of legislation but in aid of prosecution. This
violates the principle of separation of powers and is beyond the scope of congressional
Since experience has shown that mere requests for information does not usually work,
Congress has the inherent power to punish recalcitrant witnesses for contempt, and may
have them incarcerated until such time that they agree to testify.
The continuance of such incarceration only subsists for the lifetime, or term, of such body.
Once the body ceases to exist after its final adjournment, the power to incarcerate ceases to
exist as well. Thus, each Congress of the House lasts for only 3 years. But if one is
incarcerated by the Senate, it is indefinite because the Senate, with its staggered terms, is a
continuing body.
BUT, in order for a witness to be subject to this incarceration, the primary requirement is
that the inquiry is within the scope of Congress powers. i.e. it is in aid of legislation.
The materiality of a question is determined not by its connection to any actually pending
legislation, but by its connection to the general scope of the inquiry.
The power to punish for contempt is inherent in Congress and this power is sui generis. It
cannot be exercised by local government units unless they are expressly authorized to do
The inquiry must be conducted in accordance with the duly published rules of procedure of
the House conducting the inquiry; and
The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected. Ex. The
right against self-incrimination.
Appearance by department heads before Congress:
Since members of the executive department are co-equals with those of the legislative
department, under the principle of separations of powers, department heads cannot be
compelled to appear before Congress. Neither may the department heads impose their
appearance upon Congress.
Department heads may appear before Congress in the following instances.
Upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President (and that of the House
concerned); or
Upon the request of either House (which cannot compel them to attend)
The appearance will be conducted in EXECUTIVE SESSION when:
Required by the security of state or required by public interest; and
When the President so states in writing