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Senate v.

Ermita i) the so-called Fertilizer scam;

G.R. No. 169777 | April 20, 2006 ii) the North Rail investigation
Petitioners: Senate of the Philippines iii) the Wiretapping activity of the ISAFP; and
Respondents: Eduardo Ermita, as Executive Secretary of PGMA\ iv) the investigation on the Venable contract.

When Congress exercise its power of inquiry, the only way for department heads to
exempt themselves therefrom is by a valid claim of privilege. They are not exempt by - W/N EO 464 contravenes the power of inquiry vested in Congress
the mere fact that they are department heads. Only one official may be exempted
from this power -- the President.
Basically, if a department head is invited by Congress, their attendance is:
Discretionary – if the invitation is under Question Hour (Sec. 22, Art. 6 of Consti) YES.
Mandatory – if the invitation is under the power of inquiry (Sec. 21, Art. 6 of Consti)
1) EO 464 bars the appearance of executive officials before the Congress, hence it
deprives it of the information in possession of these officials.
2) To determine the validity of the provisions of EO 464, the SC sought to
FACTS: distinguish Section 21 from Section 22 of Art 6 of the 1987 Constitution.
3) Sec. 22: Question Hour
1) The Committee of the Senate issued invitations to various officials of the a) “Heads of departments may, upon their own initiative, with the consent of the
Executive Department for them to appear as resource speakers in a public President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House
hearing on the railway project of the North Luzon Railways Corporation with the shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter
China National Machinery and Equipment Group (North Rail Project) pertaining to their departments.”
2) The public hearing was sparked by a privilege speech of Senator Juan Ponce b) Objective: to obtain information in pursuit of Congress’ oversight function.
Enrile urging the Senate to investigate the alleged overpricing and other unlawful c) When Congress merely seeks to be informed on how department heads are
provisions of the contract covering the North Rail Project. implementing the statutes which it had issued, the department heads’
3) Senate President Franklin M. Drilon received from Executive Secretary Eduardo appearance is merely requested.
R. Ermita a letter respectfully requesting for the postponement of the hearing 4) Sec. 21: Congress’ power of inquiry
regarding the North Rail project to which various officials of the Executive a) The power of inquiry in aid of legislation is inherent in the power to legislate.
Department have been invited in order to afford said officials ample time and A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of
opportunity to study and prepare for the various issues so that they may better information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to
enlighten the Senate Committee on its investigation. affect or change. And where the legislative body does not itself possess the
a) Senate refused. requisite information, recourse must be had to others who do possess it.
4) PGMA issued EO 464, effective immediately, which, among others, mandated b) Exceptions (under Executive Privilege):
that “all heads of departments of the Executive Branch of the government shall i) This is the power of the government to withhold information from the
secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before either House of public, the courts, and the Congress.
Congress.” ii) Only for certain types of information of a sensitive character.
a) Pursuant to this Order, Executive Sec. Ermita communicated to the Senate iii) When Congress exercise its power of inquiry, the only way for
that the executive and AFP officials would not be able to attend the meeting department heads to exempt themselves therefrom is by a valid claim of
since the President has not yet given her consent. privilege. They are not exempt by the mere fact that they are
b) Despite the lack of consent, Col. Balutan and Brig. Gen. Gudani, among all department heads. Only one official may be exempted from this power --
the AFP officials invited, attended the investigation. Both faced court martial the President.
for such attendance. 5) The requirement then to secure presidential consent under Section 1 of EO 464,
5) After the conclusion of the oral arguments, the parties were directed to submit limited as it is only to appearances in the question hour, is valid on its face. For
their respective memoranda, paying particular attention to the following under Section 22, Article VI of the Constitution, the appearance of department
propositions: heads in the question hour is discretionary on their part. Section 1 cannot,
a) (1) that E.O. 464 is, on its face, unconstitutional; and however, be applied to appearances of department heads in inquiries in aid of
b) (2) assuming that it is not, it is unconstitutional as applied in four instances, legislation. Congress is not bound in such instances to respect the refusal of the
department head to appear in such inquiry, unless a valid claim of privilege is
subsequently made, either by the President herself or by the Executive
6) 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. Nonetheless, when the inquiry in
which Congress requires their appearance is ‘in aid of legislation’ under Section
21, the appearance is mandatory.
7) 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
operations. As discussed in Arnault, the power of inquiry, with process to enforce
it, is grounded on the necessity of information in the legislative process.
a) 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.