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Arnault v Nazareno digest

2. It turned out that the Government did not have to pay a single

G.R. No. L-3820 July 18, 1950

centavo for the Tambobong Estate as it was already practically

Ozaeta, J.:

owned by virtue of a deed of sale from the Philippine Trust Company


and by virtue of the recession of the contract through which Ernest
H. Burt had an interest in the estate. An intriguing question which

Topic: Legislative inquiry

the committee sought to resolve was that involved in the apparent


Facts:

irregularity of the Government's paying to Burt the total sum of


P1,500,000 for his alleged interest of only P20,000 in the two estates,

1. The controversy arose out of the Governments purchase of 2

which he seemed to have forfeited anyway long before October,

estates. Petitioner was the attorney in-fact of Ernest H. Burt in the

1949. The committee sought to determine who were responsible for

negotiations for the purchase of the Buenavista and Tambobong

and who benefited from the transaction at the expense of the

Estates by the Government of the Philippines. The purchase was

Government.

effected and the price paid for both estates was P5,000,000. The
Senate adopted Resolution No. 8 creating a Special Committee to

3. Arnault testified that two checks payable to Burt aggregating

determine the validity of the purchase and whether the price paid was

P1,500,000 were delivered to him; and that on the same occasion he

fair and just. During the said Senate investigation, petitioner was

draw on said account two checks; one for P500,000, which he

asked to whom a part of the purchase price, or P440,000, was

transferred to the account of the Associated Agencies, Inc., with

delivered. Petitioner refused to answer this question, hence the

PNB, and another for P440,000 payable to cash, which he himself

Committee cited him in contempt for contumacious acts and ordered

cashed.

his commitment to the custody of the Sergeant at-arms of the


Philippines Senate and imprisoned in the new Bilibid Prison he

4. Hence, this petition on following grounds:

reveals to the Senate or to the Special Committee the name of the


person who received the P440,000 and to answer questions pertinent
thereto.

a)

Petitioner contends that the Senate has no power to punish him for
contempt for refusing to reveal the name of the person to whom he
gave the P440,000, because such information is immaterial to, and
will not serve, any intended or purported legislation and his refusal

to answer the question has not embarrassed, obstructed, or impeded

no relation to the subject of the inquiry. Note that, the fact that the

the legislative process.

legislative body has jurisdiction or the power to make the inquiry

b)

would not preclude judicial intervention to correct a clear abuse of

Petitioner contended that the Senate lacks authority to commit

him for contempt for a term beyond its period of legislative session,

discretion in the exercise of that power.

which ended on May 18, 1950.


c) Also contended that he would incriminate himself if he should

It is not necessary for the legislative body to show that every

reveal the name of the person

question propounded to a witness is material to any proposed or


possible legislation; what is required is that is that it be pertinent to
the matter under inquiry.

ISSUE: W/N either House of Congress has the power to punish a


person not a member for contempt

As to the self-incrimination issue, as against witness's inconsistent


and unjustified claim to a constitutional right, is his clear duty as a

YES.

citizen to give frank, sincere, and truthful testimony before a


competent authority. The state has the right to exact fulfillment of a

Once an inquiry is admitted or established to be within the

citizen's obligation, consistent of course with his right under the

jurisdiction of a legislative body to make, the investigating

Constitution.

committee has the power to require a witness to answer any question


pertinent to that inquiry, subject of course to his constitutional right

The resolution of commitment here in question was adopted by the

against self-incrimination. The inquiry, to be within the jurisdiction

Senate, which is a continuing body and which does not cease exist

of the legislative body to make, must be material or necessary to the

upon the periodical dissolution of the Congress or of the House of

exercise of a power in it vested by the Constitution, such as to

Representatives. There is no limit as to time to the Senate's power to

legislate, or to expel a Member; and every question which the

punish for contempt in cases where that power may constitutionally

investigator is empowered to coerce a witness to answer must be

be exerted as in the present case. That power subsists as long as the

material or pertinent to the subject of the inquiry or investigation. So

Senate, which is a continuing body, persists in performing the

a witness may not be coerced to answer a question that obviously has

particular legislative function involved.