Press Release
March 3, 2008

Villar says Senate ready to defend Senate's power, citizen's right
to know before SC

Senate President Manny Villar today said the Senate is ready to defend before the Supreme Court the Upper Chamber's power to investigate in aid of legislation, including the authority to summon government officials to appear before its committees.

"The impasse caused by government officials' continued refusal to appear before the Senate and testify before Senate committees created an opening for the court to resolve this lingering issue of the limits of the executive privilege vis-a-vis the power of Congress to summon government officials," Villar said.

The High Court is scheduled to hear on Tuesday oral arguments on the petition of former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri seeking a ruling on the limits of executive privilege. Dean Pacifico Agabin and lawyers Jose Cadiz and Carlos Medina will deliver the arguments on behalf of the Senate.

Villar noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that Executive Order 464 "cannot always be invoked to prevent all officials from appearing before a congressional body all the time."

He said in this case, the SC is set to issue a landmark decision that will "put to rest questions on what should come first, the executive privilege or the public's Constitutional right to information."

In a 40-page comment submitted to the SC by Villar and Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Alan Peter Cayetano on February 15, the Senate asserts that it should be allowed to implement the arrest order against Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Neri and help the Senate in its quest for the truth behind the controversial ZTE-National Broadband Network deal.

"I trust that our justices will provide us the light in our search for truth," Villar said, while saying the justices might be instrumental in bringing closure to an issue which is dividing the nation.

Villar, who is also president of the Nacionalista Party, maintained that the Senate in issuing the arrest warrant against Neri is acting within the bounds of the law, after the CHED Chairman repeatedly defied the Senate's invitation to testify on the $329 million transaction.

"If they have nothing evil to hide, let them be the good men that they are who speak the truth," Villar said.

Villar said the Senate in issuing the arrest order, did not act with arrogance and has not abused its authority in implementing the arrest order after Neri failed to honor Senate invitations on September 18, 20, October 25 and November 20 last year.

"The Senate in issuing the assailed order did so in the valid exercise of its legislative powers in light of the repeated refusal of Petitioner to appear before the Committees by erroneously invoking executive privilege," the comment said.

Villar expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will be consistent in showing integrity and independence by upholding the Constitution. The Senate president recalled that six out of six petitions filed before the High Court were ruled in favor of the Senate.

News Latest News Feed