Press Release
April 1, 2008

Villar laments use of SC ruling to defeat check and balance

Senate President Manny Villar today said the use of the Supreme Court (SC) decision upholding the right to invoke executive privilege over the Senate's legislative power for Cabinet official to evade Senate summons, "indicates the dangers of this lopsided decision to a democratic system of government."

"With this statement, clearly, the SC decision is now being used as a shield for Cabinet members not to honor Senate invitations. It does not speak well of a system of check and balance that is supposed to be in place," Villar said.

"What we are seeing now is any president has the liberty to do anything he or she pleases because there will be no more need for explaining. Lahat ng cabinet member ay hindi na pwedeng sumagot. Wala nang magtatanong sa kanila," he added.

Villar added the Senate will file a motion for reconsideration to defend the Senate as an institution and the importance of "in aid of legislation" function of the Upper Chamber.

On the assertion that Senate hearings in the past can be regarded as null and void in the absence of published rules, Villar reminded the Executive department that "previous Senate hearings include budget deliberations."

"Are they saying the Senate budget hearings that appropriated funds for the operation of this government, including our employees' salaries, are invalid?" Villar asked.

The Senate president maintained that the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation was published initially on August 20, 1992 (Philippine Daily Inquirer) and August 21, 1992 (Philippine Star).

Citing Senate records, Villar added that after amendments were introduced in the said rules on August 21, 1995, the amended rules were published on August 24, 1995 (Philippine Star and Malaya). The said rules without amendments were republished on December 1, 2006 in the Inquirer and Star, he added.

"Needless to say, the Senate rules has been duly published in accordance with Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution," Villar said.

Villar added the Senate, as a continuing body, is not required to publish the Rules every Congress.

"The Supreme Court erred when it said that the Senate needs to publish its rules at the start of every new Congress. Naniniwala kami na ang Senado ay isang continuing body na laging nariyan. Anytime, may 12 senador ang hindi umaalis sa puwesto. May rule na kami at na-publish na iyan," Villar said.

"At matatagpuan sa aming website ang Senate Rules. Kahit sino ay puwedeng makabasa niyan," he added.

Villar also said it is unfortunate that the SC, instead of focusing their discussion on the issue of executive privilege, decided to look at the peripheral issue of the publication to come out with a ruling that is favorable to Neri.

"Masyado namang tini-teknikal kami dyan. Alam mo iyung maliit na bagay ang pinalalaki kung baga, naghanap na lang ng butas at pinapalaki ang dapat ay isang maliit na isyu lang," Villar said.

The Senate president also lamented how the Executive department interprets the law to suit their requirements.

"Sa kanilang interpretasyon halimbawa kung ano ang executive agreement, sila ang gumagawa ng rule nila. Ang sinasabi naman sa Konstitusyon, ang mga treaty ay kailangang i-ratify ng Senado pero sila lang ang nagdi-define kung ang isang agreement ay treaty or isang executive agreement na hindi na kailangan ang ratification ng Senado," he said.

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