Pimentel v. Senate Committee (G.R. No. 187714; March 8, 2011)


On 8 October 2008, Senator Madrigal introduced P.S. Resolution 706, which directed the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the alleged double insertion of P200 million by Senator Manny Villar into the C5 Extension Project. After the election of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate President, the Ethics Committee was reorganized, but the Minority failed to name its representatives to the Committee, prompting a delay in the investigation. Thereafter, the Senate adopted the Rules of the Ethics CommitteeIn another privilege speech, Senator Villar stated he will answer the accusations before the Senate, and not with the Ethics Committee. Senator Lacson, then chairperson of the Ethics Committee, then moved that the responsibility of the Ethics Committee be transferred to the Senate as a Committee of the Whole, which was approved by the majority. In the hearings of such Committee, petitioners objected to the application of the Rules of the Ethics Committee to the Senate Committee of the Whole. They also questioned the quorum, and proposed amendments to the Rules. Senator Pimentel raised the issue on the need to publish the rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole.

ISSUES: [1] Is Senator Madrigal, who filed the complaint against Senator Villar, an indispensable party in this petition?

[2] Is the petition premature for failure to observe the doctrine of primary jurisdiction or prior resort?

[3] Is the transfer of the complaint against Senator Villar from the Ethics Committee to the Senate Committee of the Whole violative ofSenator Villar's right to equal protection?

[4] Is the adoption of the Rules of the Ethics Committee as Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole violative of Senator Villar's right to due process and of the majority quorum requirement under Art. VI, Section 16(2) of the Constitution?

[5] Is publication of the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole required for their effectivity?
HELD: [1] An indispensable party is a party who has an interest in the controversy or subject matter that a final adjudication cannot be made, in his absence, without injuring or affecting that interest. In this case, Senator Madrigal is not an indispensable party to the petition before the Court. While it may be true that she has an interest in the outcome of this case as the author of P.S. Resolution 706, the issues in this case are matters of jurisdiction and procedure on the part of the Senate Committee of the Whole which can be resolved without affecting Senator Madrigal's interest.

[2] The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not apply to this case. The issues presented here do not require the expertise, specialized skills and knowledge of respondent for their resolution. On the contrary, the issues here are purely legal questions which are within the competence and jurisdiction of the Court.

[3] While ordinarily an investigation about one of its members alleged irregular or unethical conduct is within the jurisdiction of the Ethics Committee, the Minority effectively prevented it from pursuing the investigation when they refused to nominate their members to the Ethics Committee. The referral of the investigation to the Committee of the Whole was an extraordinary remedy undertaken by the Ethics Committee and approved by a majority of the members of the Senate, and not violative of the right to equal protection.

[4] The adoption by the Senate Committee of the Whole of the Rules of the Ethics Committee does not violate Senator Villar's right to due process. The Constitutional right of the Senate to promulgate its own rules of proceedings has been recognized and affirmed by this Court in Section 16(3), Article VI of the Philippine Constitution, which states: "Each House shall determine the rules of its proceedings."

[5] The Constitution does not require publication of the internal rules of the House or Senate. Since rules of the House or the Senate that affect only their members are internal to the House or Senate, such rules need not be published, unless such rules expressly provide for their publication before the rules can take effect. Hence, in this particular case, the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole itself provide that the Rules must be published before the Rules can take effect. Thus, even if publication is not required under the Constitution, publication of the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole is required because the Rules expressly mandate their publication. PARTIALLY GRANTED.