Monday, August 15, 2011

Time to end the witch hunt; If you have proof, take it to court

The Senate has apparently deemed itself so powerful as to become both judge and jury in what they call "hearings in aid of legislation", a thinly veiled reference to the witch hunt they are conducting against the formr first ocuple Gloria and Mike Arroyo. Senator Drilon has even gone far to preempt any defense the former First Gentleman would make. In an article in the Inquirer wesbite today by Cathy Yamsuan, Drilon said:

Expect Mike Arroyo’s lawyers to produce a deed of sale bearing the name of another person to show that the husband of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not the owner of the two secondhand helicopters sold to the Philippine National Police, Sen. Franklin Drilon said on Sunday.

I wonder if Drilon realizes that he is a legislator and not the prosecution attorney? Come to think of it, the people constituting the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee are composed of people who have axes to grind against the Arroyos. To expect them to be fair would be impossible, but to act like Brutus and Cassius in front of Caesar, hungry for blood, is going a little bit too far.

These Senate hearings have gone on long enough, and with its supposed mountains of evidences and witnesses against Big Mike Arroyo, it is time to move from the Senate to the courts -- unless deep in their heart of hearts, these so-called Honorable (daw) Senators know that the evidence wouldn't pass muster in nay court of law. Could this be the reason why all their witnesses are being presented in the Senate and not in court?

We have jurisprudence with regards to these "hearings in aid of legislation". In Bengzon, et al vs Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (

G.R. No. 89914 November 20, 1991)

, the Supreme Court said, in part:


The "allocation of constituional boundaries" is a task that this Court must perfomr under the Constitution. Moreowever, as held in a recent case, 12 "(t)he political question doctrine neither interposes an obstacle to judicial determination of the rival claims. The jurisdiction to delimit constitutional boundaries has been given to this Court. It cannot abdicate that obligation mandated by the 1987 Constitution, although said provision by no means does away with kthe applicability of the principle in appropriate cases." 13

The Court is thus of the considered view that it has jurisdiction over the present controversy for the purpose of determining the scope and extent of the power of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct inquiries into private affirs in purported aid of legislation.

Coming to the specific issues raised in this case, petitioners contend that (1) the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's inquiry has no valid legislative purpose, i.e., it is not done in aid of legislation; (2) the sale or disposition of hte Romualdez corporations is a "purely private transaction" which is beyond the power of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to inquire into; and (3) the inquiry violates their right to due process.

The 1987 Constition expressly recognizes the power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation. 14 Thus, Section 21, Article VI thereof provides:

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. 15

The power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is not, therefore, absolute or unlimited. Its exercise is circumscribed by the afore-quoted provision of the Constitution. Thus, as provided therein, the investigation must be "in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure" and that "the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected." It follows then that the rights of persons under the Bill of Rights must be respected, including the right to due process and the right not to be compelled to testify against one's self.


One of the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution to an individual is the right against self-incrimination. 24 Thir right constured as the right to remain completely silent may be availed of by the accused in a criminal case; but kit may be invoked by other witnesses only as questions are asked of them.

This distinction was enunciated by the Court in Romeo Chavez vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals, et al. 25 thus —

Petitioner, as accused, occupies a different tier of protection from an ordinary witness. Whereas an ordinary witness may be compelled to take the witness stand and claim the privilege as each question requiring an incriminating answer is hot at him, an accused may altother refuse to take the witness stand and refuse to answer any all questions.

Moreover, this right of the accused is extended to respondents in administrative investigations but only if they partake of the nature of a criminal proceeding or analogous to a criminal proceeding. In Galman vs. Pamaran, 26the Court reiterated the doctrine in Cabal vs. Kapuanan (6 SCRA 1059) to illustrate the right of witnesses to invoke the right against self-incrimination not only in criminal proceedings but also in all other types of suit

It was held that:

We did not therein state that since he is not an accused and the case is not a criminal case, Cabal cannot refuse to take the witness stand and testify, and that he can invoke his right against self-incrimination only when a question which tends to elicit an answer that will incriminate him is propounded to him. Clearly then, it is not the characeter of the suit involved but the nature of the proceedings that controls. The privilege has consistenly been held to extend to all proceedings sanctioned by law and to all cases in which punishment is sought to be visited upon a witness, whether a party or not.

We do not here modify these doctrines. If we presently rule that petitioners may not be compelled by the respondent Committee to appear, testify and produce evidenc before it, it is only becuase we hold that the questioned inquiry is not in aid of legislation and, if pursued, would be violative of the principle of separation of powers between the legislative and the judicial departments of government, ordained by the Constitution.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court holds that, under the facts, including the circumtance that petitioners are presently impleaded as defendants in a case before the Sandiganbayan, which involves issues intimately related to the subject of contemplated inquiry before the respondet Committee, the respondent Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is hereby enjoined from compelling the petitioners and intervenor to testify before it and produce evidence at the said inquiry.


Fernan, C.J., Melencio-Herrera, Feliciano, Bidin, GriƱo-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, Davide, Jr. and Romero, JJ., concur.


In my humble opinion, with my elementary understanding of the law and its workings, the Senate hearings are clearly not being done in aid of legislation but as a form of trial by publicity. Clearly, the statements made by some senators that Mike Arroyo is sure to go to jail for his involvement in the "helicopter purchase" scandal shows the true intention of the solons, for, if it is truly in aid of legislation, they have no more need to pursue these hearings, for they have enough to craft new laws or rectify existing ones to prevent such incidents from ever happening again. The only purpose left for these hearings is to continue to vilify the Arroyos and humiliate them, without giving them the chance to defend themselves in a court of law, as guaranteed by our Constitution.

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