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ROMERO V.

ESTRADA
G.R. No. 174105 | April 2, 2009
Petitioners: Reghis M. Romero II (Romero II), Edmond Q. Sese, Leopoldo T.
Sanchez, Reghis M. Romero III (Romero III), Michael L. Romero, Nathaniel L.
Romero and Jerome R. Canlas
Respondents: Sen. Jinggoy E. Estrada and Senate Committee on Labor,
Employment and Human Resources Development (Committee)
Velasco, Jr., J.
SUMMARY: Petitioners were invited to a Senate Hearing to answer questions
concerning the investments of OWWA funds in the Smokey Mountain project. This
was done by the Senate Committee in aid of legislation to determine propriety of
amending Migrant Workers Act and enactment of laws to protect OWWA funds.
Petitioners filed this petition to assail the constitutionality of the invitations and
subpoenas issued by the Senate on the ground that the subject matter of the inquiry
is sub judice because of the pendency of Chavez v. NHA case.
W/N the subject matter of the Committees Inquiry is sub judice? NO. SC held
that it is no longer sub judice because the Chavez case (which petitioners say has the
same issue as the subject matter of the Senate inquiry) was already decided with
finality last 2008. Moreover, even assuming it was still pending, mere pendency of
any prosecution or administrative action (or while it is on appeal) shall not bar any
inquiry in aid of legislation. Reason is that inquiry and court proceedings have
different purposes. (note: sub judice means before a court for consideration, sub
judice rules purpose is to avoid disclosure/comments etc. to avoid prejudgment/bias
or influence in the decision)
FACTS:

Petition for prohibition, TRO and Prelim. Injunction assailing the


Constitutionality of the invitations and other compulsory processes
issued by the Senate Committee in connection with its investigation on
the investment of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
funds in the Smokey Mountain Project

Aug. 15, 3006: Petitioner Romero II (owner of R-II Builders, Inc.) received an
invitation from the Committee asking him to go to the hearing and answer
inquiries by the Senate involving the investment of OWWA funds. It reads:
Pursuant to P.S. Resolution No. 537, entitled: RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE LABOR COMMITTEE TO
INVESTIGATE, IN AID OF LEGISLATION, THE LIABILITY FOR PLUNDER OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT
RAMOS AND OTHERS, FOR THE ILLEGAL INVESTMENT OF OWWA FUNDS IN THE SMOKEY
MOUNTAIN PROJECT, CAUSING A LOSS TO OWWA OF P550.86 MILLION and P.S. Resolution No. 543,
entitled: RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT, IN ITS ONGOING
INQUIRY IN AID OF LEGISLATION, ON THE ALLEGED OWWA LOSS OF P480 MILLION TO FOCUS ON
THE CULPABILITY OF THEN PRESIDENT FIDEL RAMOS, THEN OWWA ADMINISTRATOR WILHELM
SORIANO, AND R-II BUILDERS OWNER REGHIS ROMERO II, the Committee on Labor, Employment and
Human Resources Development chaired by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada will conduct a public hearing at 1PM on
8/23/06 at the Sen. G.T. Pecson Room, 2nd floor, Senate of the Phil., Pasay City.
The inquiry/investigation is specifically intended to aid the Senate in the review and possible amendments
to the pertinent provisions of RA 8042, the Migrant Workers Act and to craft a much needed legislation
relative to the stated subject matter and purpose of the aforementioned Resolutions.
By virtue of the power vested in Congress by Art. VI, Sec. 21, Consti regarding inquiries in aid of
legislation, may we have the privilege of inviting you to the said hearing to shed light on any matter, within
your knowledge and competence, covered by the subject matter and purpose of the inquiry. Rest assured that
your rights, when properly invoked and not unfounded, will be duly respected.

Aug.18, 2006: Romero II requested that he be excused from appearing


and testifying before the Committee. DENIED by the Committee on Aug. 28.
Aug. 28, 2006: Invitations (to attend the hearing on Sept. 4) were also sent
to the other 6 petitioners (former members of the BOD of R-II Builders Inc.)
The next day, Sen. Estrada also caused the service of subpoena ad
testificandum on Romero II directing him to appear and testify before
the Committee. Separate subpoenas were also issued to other petitioners.
Aug. 30, 2006: Petitioners filed this instant petition (on the basis of the
grounds stated below) to enjoin the Committee from compelling petitioners
to appear before it.
No TRO was issued Romero II appeared at the Committee investigation
2days after, Romero II filed a Manifestation with Urgent Plea for a TRO, he
alleges that:
(1) He answered questions concerning the investments of OWWA
funds in the Smokey Mountain project and how much of OWWAs
original investment had already been paid
(2) When Sen. Estrada called on Atty. Francisco Chavez, as
resource person, the latter spoke of the facts and issues he
raised with the Court in Chavez v. National Housing Authority,
none of which were related to the subject of the inquiry; and
(3) When Sen. Estrada adjourned the investigation, he asked
petitioners Romero II and Canlas to return at the resumption of the
investigation.
Note: This was followed by the filing of another urgent motion for a TRO
(petitioners imputed to the Committee the intention to harass them as none
of them except Romero II had even been mentioned in relation to the subject
of the investigation)
Respondents Comments on the TRO:
o Senates motives in calling for an investigation in aid of legislation
were a political question
o Pendency of Chavez is not sufficient ground to divest the
respondents of their jurisdiction to conduct an inquiry into the
matters alleged in the petition.
Petitioners GROUNDS in this petition:
(1) Subject matter of the investigation is sub judice owing to the
pendency of the Chavez petition
(2) Investigation has been intended to ascertain petitioners criminal
liability for plunder = it is not in aid of legislation
(3) Inquiry is in violation of their rights against self-incrimination
(4) Petitioners would be in danger of being arrested, detained, and
forced to give testimony against their will, before the Court could
resolve the issues raised in Chavez v NHA
Respondents Comments:
(1) Made a distinction between the issues raised in Chavez and
the subject matter of the inquiry it is not sub judice
(2) Subject matter of the investigation alleged dissipation of OWWA
funds; Purpose aid the Senate determine the propriety of
amending The Migrant Workers Act and enacting laws to protect
OWWA funds in the future.

(3) Proposed resolutions were a proper subject of legislative inquiry


(4) Petitioners right against self-incrimination was well-protected and
could be invoked when incriminating questions were propounded.
ISSUE: Whether or not the subject matter of the Committees inquiry is sub
judice?
HELD: Petition DISMISSED.
RATIO:
SUBJECT MATTER OF THE SENATE INQUIRY IS NO LONGER SUB JUDICE
*SUB JUDICE literally means before a court or judge for consideration

The sub judice rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial
proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or
obstructing the administration of justice.

A violation of the sub judice rule may render one liable for indirect contempt
(Sec. 3(d), Rule 71 Rules of Court)

Rationale for the sub judice rule:


o It is a traditional conviction of civilized society everywhere that
courts and juries, in the decision of issues of fact and law should be
immune from every extraneous influence; that facts should be
decided upon evidence produced in court; and that the
determination of such facts should be uninfluenced by bias,
prejudice or sympathies. (Nestle Philippines v. Sanchez)

Chavez case (assuming it involves issues subject of the Senate inquiry) is


no longer sub judice or before a court or judge for consideration.

By an en banc Resolution dated July 1, 2008, the Court, in GR No. 164527,


denied with finality the motion of Chavez for reconsideration of the
Decision of the Court dated August 15, 2007.

The sub judice issue has been rendered moot and academic by the
supervening issuance of the en banc Resolution of July 1, 2008 in GR
No. 164527 (Chavez v. NHA case) (Note: see above, this case was decided
only on April 2, 2009 meh)

An issue or a case becomes moot and academic when it ceases to present


a justiciable controversy, so that a determination of the issue would be
without practical use and value as there is no actual substantial relief to
which the petitioner would be entitled
Even assuming hypothetically that Chavez is still pending final adjudication by
the Court, still, such circumstance would NOT bar the continuance of the
committee investigation.

Sabio v. Gordon: The same directors and officers contend that the Senate is
barred from inquiring into the same issues being litigated before the Court of
Appeals and the Sandiganbayan. Suffice it to state that the Senate Rules of
Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation provide that the
filing or pendency of any prosecution or administrative action should
NOT stop or abate any inquiry to carry out a legislative purpose.
LEGISLATIVE INVESTIGATION (in aid of legislation) vs. COURT PROCEEDINGS

They have different purposes.

Courts conduct hearings or like adjudicative procedures to settle, through


the application of a law, actual controversies arising between adverse
litigants and involving demandable rights.
Inquiries in aid of legislation are undertaken as tools to enable the
legislative body to gather information and, thus, legislate wisely and
effectively and to determine whether there is a need to improve existing laws
or enact new or remedial legislation, albeit the inquiry need not result in any
potential legislation.
On-going judicial proceedings do NOT preclude congressional
hearings in aid of legislation.

Some cases cited:

Standard Chartered Bank v. Senate Committee on Banks, Financial


Institutions and Currencies: The mere filing of a criminal or an administrative
complaint before a court or quasi-judicial body should not automatically bar
the conduct of legislative investigation. Otherwise, it would be extremely
easy to subvert any intended inquiry by Congress through the convenient
ploy of instituting a criminal or an administrative complaint. Surely, the
exercise of sovereign legislative authority, of which the power of
legislative inquiry is an essential component, cannot be made
subordinate to a criminal or administrative investigation.

Arnault v. Nazareno: The power of inquirywith process to enforce itis an


essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. A legislative
body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information
respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or
change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite
informationwhich is not infrequently truerecourse must be had to others
who possess it.
Note: Although the above cases pertain only to pending criminal and
administrative case before lower courts, such doctrine/pronouncements by
SC can be logically applied/extended to appealed cases and SCA awaiting
final disposition before the SC
OTHER MATTERS:
On the termination of legislative inquiry | Separability of past and present Congress

SC also said that this petition has also been mooted due to the fact that the
resolutions and invitations were sent out last Aug 2006 or in the past
Congress.

On the postulate that the Senate of each Congress acts separately and
independently of the Senate before and after it, the invitations and
subpoenas are considered functos oficio and the related legislative
inquiry conducted is TERMINATED.

Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and


Investigations: The Senate as an institution is continuing, as it is not
dissolved as an entity with each national election or change in the
composition of its members. However, in the conduct of its day-to-day

business, the Senate of each Congress acts separately and independently


of the Senate before it.1
Hence, all pending matters and proceedings, unpassed bills and even
legislative investigations, of the Senate of a particular Congress are
considered TERMINATED upon the expiration of that Congress
It is merely OPTIONAL on the Senate of the succeeding Congress to
take up such unfinished matters, not in the same status, but as if
presented for the first time.
Succeeding Congress (which will typically have a different composition)
should not be bound by the acts and deliberations of the Senate of which
they had no part.

On the right against self-incrimination

This may be invoked only when the incriminating question is being


asked, since they have no way of knowing in advance the nature or
effect of the questions to be asked of them.

That this right may possibly be violated or abused is no ground for denying
respondent Senate Committees their power of inquiry.

So long as the constitutional rights of witnesses will be respected by Senate


Committees, it is their duty to cooperate with them in their efforts to obtain
the facts needed for intelligent legislative action.

The unremitting obligation of every citizen is to respond to subpoena,


to respect the dignity of the Congress and its Committees, and to
testify fully with respect to matters within the realm of proper
investigation.

Garcia vs. Mata

Post under case digests, Political Law at Sunday, April 08, 2012 Posted
by Schizophrenic Mind
Facts: Garcia was a reserve officer on active duty who was reversed to
inactive status. He filed an action for mandamus to compel the DND and AFP
to reinstate him to active service and readjust his rank and pay emoluments.

Garcia claims that his reversion to inactive status is violation of RA 1600


which prohibits the reversion of officers with at least 10 years of service.

On the other hand, the AFP and DND contend that the said provision of RA
1600 has no relevance or pertinence to the budget in question or to any
appropriation item therein. (RA 1600 was an appropriation law for 1956-57).

Issue: Whether RA 1600 is valid? Does it contain rider in an appropriation


bill?

Held: The incongruity and irrelevancy are already evident. Section 11 of RA

1 Rule of Senate - SEC. 123. Unfinished business at the end of the session shall be taken up at the next
session in the same status.All pending matters and proceedings shall terminate upon the expiration of one (1)
Congress, but may be taken by the succeeding Congress as if present[ed] for the first time.

1600 fails to disclose the relevance to any appropriation item. RA 1600 is an


appropriation law for the operation of government while Section 11 refers to a
fundamental governmental policy of calling to active duty and the reversion of
inactive statute of reserve officers in the AFP.

It also violates the rule on one-bill, one subject. The subject to be considered
Hence

it

was A NON-APPROPRIATION ITEM INSERTED IN AN

APPROPRIATION MEASURE, in violation of the constitutional prohibition


against RIDERS to the general appropriation act. It was indeed a new and

must be expressed in the title of the act. When an act contains provisions
which are clearly not embraced in the subject of the act, as expressed in the
title, such provisions are void, inoperative and without effect.

completely unrelated provision attached to the GAA.


SECTION 11 is unconstitutional. Garcia cannot compel the AFP to reinstate
him.