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Jean L.

Arnault vs Leon Nazareno

October, 1949, the Philippine Government, , through the Rural Progress Administration, bought two estates known as Buenavista and
Tambobong for the sums of P4,500,000 and P500,000, respectively.
Of the first sum, P1,000,000 was paid to Ernest H. Burt, a nonresident American, thru his attorney-in-fact in the Philippines, the Associated
Estates, Inc., represented by Jean L. Arnault.
The second sum of P500,000 was all paid to the same Ernest H. Burt through his other attorney-in-fact, the North Manila Development
Co., Inc., also represented by Jean L. Arnault.
Buenavista Estate - originally owned by the San Juan de Dios Hospital.
June 29, 1946- the San Juan de Dios Hospital sold the Buenavista Estate for P5,000,000(annual pmt=500T) to Ernest H. Bur
who made a down payment of P10,000. Burt has made no other payment.
Tambobong Estate - originally owned by the Philippine Trust Company.
May 14, 1946- PTC sold estate for P1,200,000 (90T w/in 9mo, 10 installments of 110T) to Ernest H. Burt who paid P10,000
down payment. 9months expired but Burts did not pay any other amount then or afterwards.
September 4, 1947- the PTC sold, conveyed, and delivered the Tambobong Estate to the Rural Progress Administration for
P750,000.
February 5, 1948- the Rural Progress Administration made a notarial demand upon Burt for the resolution and cancellation of his
contract of purchase
Subsequently the Court of First Instance of Rizal ordered the cancellation of Burts certificate of title and the issuance of a new
one in the name of the Rural Progress Administration, from which order he appealed to the Supreme Court.
Philippine Government, through the Secretary of Justice as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Rural Progress Administration and as
Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Philippine National Bank, from which the money was borrowed, accomplished the purchase of
the two estates in the latter part of October, 1949,
February 27, 1950 - the Senate adopted its Resolution No. 8, which creates a special committee to investigate the Buenavista and the
Tambobong estates deal.
The special committee examined various witnesses, among the most important of whom was the herein petitioner, Jean L. Arnault.
An intriguing question which the committee sought to resolve was that involved in the apparent unnecessariness and irregularity of the
Governments paying to Burt the total sum of P1,500,000 for his alleged interest of only P20,000 in the two estates, which he seemed to
have forfeited anyway long before October, 1949. The committee sought to determine who were responsible for and who benefited from
the transaction at the expense of the Government.
Arnault testified that :
two checks payable to Burt aggregating P1,500,000 were delivered to him on the afternoon of October 29, 1949;
on the same date he opened a new account in the name of Ernest H. Burt with the PNB in which he deposited the two checks
aggregating P1,500,000;
he draw two checks; one for P500,000, which he transferred to the account of the Associated Agencies, Inc., and another for
P440,000 payable which he himself cashed.
Arnault resisted to name the recipient of the P440,000 (he could not remember the name and his answer will be self-incriminating-
contradictory: if he cannot give a name, how could his answer be self-incriminating? ).
The senate then approved a resolution that cited him for contempt. It is this resolution which brought him to jail and is being contested in
this petition.

ISSUE 1: WON the Senate has no power to punish Arnault for contempt for refusing to reveal the name of the person to whom he gave the P440,000
HELD: Yes, Once an inquiry is admitted or established to be within the jurisdiction of a legislative body to make, the investigating
committee has the power to require a witness to answer any question pertinent to that inquiry, subject of course to his constitutional right against self-
incrimination. The inquiry, to be within the jurisdiction of the legislative body to make, must be material or necessary to the exercise of a power in it
vested by the Constitution, and every question which the investigator is empowered to coerce a witness to answer must be material or pertinent to the
subject of the inquiry or investigation. The power of the Court is limited to determining whether the legislative body has jurisdiction to institute the
inquiry or investigation. This Court cannot control the exercise of that jurisdiction; and it is insinuated, that the ruling of the Senate on the
materiality of the question propounded to the witness is not subject to review by this Court under the principle of the separation of power.

ISSUE 2: WON the Senate lacks authority to commit Arnault for contempt for a term beyond its period of legislative session, which ended on May
18, 1950 HELD: NO, The Senate of the Philippines is a continuing body. Theres no reason to limit the power of the legislative body to punish for
contempt to the end of every session and not to the end of the last session terminating the existence of that body. The very reason for the exercise of
the power to punish for contempt is to enable the legislative body to perform its constitutional function without impediment or obstruction. To deny
to such committees the power of inquiry with process to enforce it would be to defeat the very purpose for which that the power is recognized in the
legislative body as an essential and appropriate auxiliary to is legislative function. The Senate, which is a continuing body, does not cease to exist
upon the periodical dissolution of the Congress or of the House of Representatives. There is no limit as to time to the Senates power to punish for
contempt in cases where that power may constitutionally be exerted as in the present case.

ISSUE 3: WON the privilege against self incrimination protects the petitioner from being questioned HELD: NO, The Court is satisfied that
those answers of the witness to the important question, which is the name of that person to whom witness gave the P440,000, were obviously false.
His insistent claim before the bar of the Senate that if he should reveal the name he would incriminate himself, necessarily implied that he knew the
name. Moreover, it is unbelievable that he gave P440,000 to a person to him unknown. Testimony which is obviously false or evasive is equivalent
to a refusal to testify and is punishable as contempt, assuming that a refusal to testify would be so punishable. Since according to the witness himself
the transaction was legal, and that he gave the P440,000 to a representative of Burt in compliance with the latters verbal instruction, Court found no
basis upon which to sustain his claim that to reveal the name of that person might incriminate him.
III. THE RULING

[The Court DENIED the petition for habeas corpus filed by Arnault.]

1. Yes, the Senate had the power to punish the petitioner for contempt for refusing to reveal the name of the person
to whom he gave the Php440,000.00.

Although there is no provision in the [1935] Constitution expressly investing either House of Congress with power to make
investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may exercise its legislative functions as to be implied. In other words, the power of
inquiry with process to enforce it is 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 effect or
change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information which is not infrequently true recourse must
be had to others who do possess it. Experience has shown that mere requests for such information are often unavailing, and also that
information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion is essential to obtain what is
needed.

xxx xxx xxx

[W]e find that the question for the refusal to answer which the petitioner was held in contempt by the Senate is pertinent to the
matter under inquiry. In fact, this is not and cannot be disputed. Senate Resolution No. 8, the validity of which is not challenged by the
petitioner, requires the Special Committee, among other things, to determine the parties responsible for the Buenavista and
Tambobong estates deal, and it is obvious that the name of the person to whom the witness gave the P440,000 involved in said deal is
pertinent to that determination it is in fact the very thing sought to be determined. The contention is not that the question is
impertinent to the subject of the inquiry but that it has no relation or materiality to any proposed legislation. We have already indicated
that it is not necessary for the legislative body to show that every 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.

xxx xxx xxx

If the subject of investigation before the committee is within the range of legitimate legislative inquiry and the proposed
testimony of the witness called relates to that subject, obedience, to its process may be enforced by the committee by imprisonment.

2. YES, the Senate had the authority to commit petitioner for contempt for a term beyond its period of legislative
session.

We find no sound reason to limit the power of the legislative body to punish for contempt to the end of every session and not to
the end of the last session terminating the existence of that body. The very reason for the exercise of the power to punish for contempt
is to enable the legislative body to perform its constitutional function without impediment or obstruction. Legislative functions may be
and in practice are performed during recess by duly constituted committees charged with the duty of performing investigations or
conducting hearing relative to any proposed legislation. To deny to such committees the power of inquiry with process to enforce it
would be to defeat the very purpose for which that the power is recognized in the legislative body as an essential and appropriate
auxiliary to is legislative function. It is but logical to say that the power of self-preservation is coexistent with the life to be preserved.

But the resolution of commitment here in question was adopted by the Senate, which is a continuing body and which does not
cease exist upon the periodical dissolution of the Congress . . . There is no limit as to time to the Senates power to punish for contempt
in cases where that power may constitutionally be exerted as in the present case.

3. NO, the petitioner may NOT rightfully invoke his right against self-incrimination.

Since according to the witness himself the transaction was legal, and that he gave the [P440,000.00] to a representative of
Burt in compliance with the latters verbal instruction, we find no basis upon which to sustain his claim that to reveal the name of that
person might incriminate him. There is no conflict of authorities on the applicable rule, to wit:

Generally, the question whether testimony is privileged is for the determination of the Court. At least, it is not enough for the
witness to say that the answer will incriminate him as he is not the sole judge of his liability. The danger of self-incrimination must
appear reasonable and real to the court, from all the circumstances, and from the whole case, as well as from his general conception of
the relations of the witness. Upon the facts thus developed, it is the province of the court to determine whether a direct answer to a
question may criminate or not. . . The fact that the testimony of a witness may tend to show that he has violated the law is not sufficient
to entitle him to claim the protection of the constitutional provision against self-incrimination, unless he is at the same time liable to
prosecution and punishment for such violation. The witness cannot assert his privilege by reason of some fanciful excuse, for protection
against an imaginary danger, or to secure immunity to a third person.

It is the province of the trial judge to determine from all the facts and circumstances of the case whether the witness is justified
in refusing to answer. A witness is not relieved from answering merely on his own declaration that an answer might incriminate him, but
rather it is for the trial judge to decide that question.