Press Release
April 8, 2008

Villar urges SC to take a second look at Neri decision
for a "workable government"

Senate President Manny Villar today said the Senate, through the motion for reconsideration it filed this morning, is asking the Supreme Court (SC) to take a second circumspect look at the Neri decision.

Villar urged the magistrates who voted with the majority decision to "show that the High Court remains a fair court; that like the blindfolded Lady of Justice (Justitia), the SC represents justice, fair justice to all and unfairness to none."

Villar pointed to an urgent need for an independent SC in a democratic country like the Philippines whose decisions form part as laws of the land.

"Even if it seems that the Senate is the 'last man standing' in a pile of institutions falling down like dominoes, we are here to show that there remains an institution that is prepared and ready to defend the ideals of the Constitution," Villar said.

"The decision must be reconsidered as it is a debilitating blow to the very heart of the most fundamental mechanism to have a "workable government" --- the system of checks and balances," he added.

"If not corrected, the Neri decision would have turned executive privilege into a license to commit crime. That if we allowed it to become final, we shall have a democracy of kept secrets and that when secrecy is invoked amid accusation of corruption, it is nothing but a tool for a criminal cover-up," Villar said, quoting the significant highlights of the MR's arguments.

The MR cited also that the decision threads a dangerous and crippling precedent which does not merely gag the Senate from asking the three questions, but has serious, far-reaching emasculating results on future legislative inquiries involving public funds.

Villar, who left the country to lead the Senate delegation to the 118th Inter-Parliamentary Union General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, said the magistrates should "seriously reconsider the Neri decision by looking at the way it will work to the detriment of the campaign against graft and corruption and the principle of transparency and accountability."

In a 105-page motion for reconsideration filed with the Supreme Court, the Senate as respondent, prays that the SC carefully re-examine the facts, applying the proper laws, and jurisprudence in their appropriate context and in accordance with the intent, and hopefully arrive at a more circumspect decision to ensure a "workable government."

Villar cited that the MR presents new arguments, including:

1. That the SC decision relied heavily on the memorandum of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on the non-publication of the rules of procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation, filed at the eleventh hour on March 17, 2008 or 13 days after the oral argument. Said memorandum was sent to the Senate only on March 25, 2008, the day the decision of the Supreme Court came out. Accordingly, the Senate has been deprived of due process and in fact, "is inconsistent with the cardinal primary requirements of due process in administrative proceedings."

2. That the decision allows the circumvention of constitutional provisions on the requirement of prior concurrence of the Monetary Board in approving foreign loans and that it is subject to reportorial requirements of Congress. That it violates the fundamental guarantee that information on foreign loans obtained by the government shall be made available to the public.

3. That the decision did not even take into considerations the constitutional guarantees on the citizen's right to know, transparency and honesty in public service, accountability and the precept that public office is a public trust. This is surprising as the 1987 Philippine Constitution is a landmark as it contains provisions relevant to this aspect.

4. That the decision is founded on assertions that are too general, abstract and speculative when the requirements of executive privilege is that it must enjoy certain degree of specificity or particularity. In fact, the transcripts of the oral arguments revealed that the DND (in the case of military secrets) or DFA (in the case of diplomatic secrets) have never been consulted anent the NBN-ZTE and thus, no military or diplomatic secrets will be set in danger if the three questions are allowed to be answered. The MR fully cited too the question and answer between the SC and Neri's counsel in which the latter replied "I cannot fathom" in almost all queries pertinent to the effects of the Neri disclosure on economic/diplomatic/military relations.

As Villar underscores the need to reverse the Neri decision or else "the fundamental role of the Senate as a contributor to the formulation of a national agenda and to curb corruption at high places of government will be damagingly eroded," the Senate President acknowledges his appreciation to the hundreds of lawyers, legal experts and law students who volunteered to help in the preparation of the more than a hundred page pleading.

"The MR is a product of voluntarism in the cause of getting justice. It shows the significance of this case to all concerned," he said.

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