Press Release
September 16, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the Senate will be forced to issue subpoenas to officials of the executive branch, including those in the military and police, if they refuse to appear at the committee hearings on the "Hello Garci" and national broadband network (NBN) controversies.

Pimentel said the Senate cannot accept the explanation of invited resource from the executive branch that they could not testify at the inquiry in the absence of a presidential clearance.

This was the reason given by retired Gen. Efren Abu, former chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), now special envoy to the East ASEAN Growth Area; and Maj. Gen. Tirso Danga, former AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence and now chief of AFP Western Command for not showing up at the Sept. 7 hearing on the wiretapping scandal conducted by the national defense committee and blue ribbon committee.

Pimentel said Cabinet members and subordinate officials cannot invoke Executive Order 464 to evade congressional investigations. He said the Supreme Court, in its 2006 decision, invalidated the provision of EO 464 preventing them from attending congressional hearings without presidential approval because that will curtail the authority of Congress to look into the actuations of the executive branch in accordance with the principle of checks and balance enshrined in the Constitution.

However, he said that the SC ruling recognizes the authority of the President to restrain Cabinet members from attending the Question Hour called by either the House of Representatives.

With EO 464 largely rescinded by the high tribunal, Malacañang had issued Memorandum Circular 108 which requires the Senate and House of Representatives to give invited officials from the executive branch at least 15 days to prepare for their appearance. It also requires Congress to furnish to the Palace and the executive officials concerned a list of questions to be asked of them during their appearance before they are allowed to testify.

Pimentel said Memo Circular 108 is worse than EO 464 because it imposes specific conditions before presidential consent is given for their appearance in congressional probes.

He said that officials of the executive branch who will ignore the Senate's subpoena will face the risk of being cited for contempt by the Senate.

"The Senate has the authority to compel them to attend the hearings but they may try to counteract such move by going to the Supreme Court."

Pimentel said the moment the issue is elevated to the high tribunal, that is the time the constitutionality of Memo Circular 108 will be resolved.

He also expressed dismay over the persistent efforts of former Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to avoid the Senate inquiry on the wiretapping scandal.

Pimentel was informed that the subpoena on Garcillano has not been served up to now even after being discharged from a hospital where he under went some medical test.

The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office failed to locate Garcillano and serve the subpoena on him when its agents went to Cagayan de Oro City and Bukidnon last week.

"Garcillano has no reason to ignore the Senate hearings because in the first place, he has already retired from the government service. Much less can he invoke EO 464 now that he is no longer a public official."

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