Case Digest: PHILCOMSAT v. Senate

G.R. No. 180308 : June 19, 2012

PHILCOMSAT HOLDINGS CORPORATION, ENRIQUE L. LOCSIN AND MANUEL D. ANDAL, Petitioners, v. SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, SENATE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT CORPORATIONS AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES, SENATE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SERVICES, HON. SEN. RICHARD GORDON AND HON. SEN. JUAN PONCE ENRILE,Respondents.

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:


FACTS:

PHILCOMSAT is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (POTC), a government-sequestered organization in which the Republic of the Philippines holds a 35% interest in shares of stocks. For the period from 1986 to 1996, the government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), regularly received cash dividends from POTC. However, POTC suffered its first loss.

In view of the losses that the government continued to incur and in order to protect its interests in POTC, PHILCOMSAT and PHC, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, during the Second Regular Session of the Thirteenth Congress of the Philippines, introduced Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 455 directing the conduct of an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the anomalous losses incurred by POTC, PHILCOMSAT and PHC and the mismanagement committed by their respective board of directors.

Respondents Senate Committees submitted the assailed Committee Report No. 312, where it noted the need to examine the role of the PCGG in the management of POTC, PHILCOMSAT and PHC. After due proceedings, the respondents Senate Committees found overwhelming mismanagement by the PCGG and its nominees over POTC, PHILCOMSAT and PHC, and that PCGG was negligent in performing its mandate to preserve the government's interests in the said corporations. In sum, Committee Report No. 312 recommended, inter alia, the privatization and transfer of the jurisdiction over the shares of the government in POTC and PHILCOMSAT to the Privatization Management Office (PMO) under the Department of Finance (DOF) and the replacement of government nominees as directors of POTC and PHILCOMSAT.

Petitioners filed the instant petition before the Court, questioning, in particular, the haste with which the respondent Senate approved the challenged Committee Report No. 312.

ISSUE: Whether or not Committee Resolution No. 312 should be nullified, having proposed no piece of legislation and having been hastily approved by the respondent Senate?

HELD: Committee Report No. 312 is sustained.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: senate's power of inquiry


The respondents Senate Committees' power of inquiry relative to PSR No. 455 has been passed upon and upheld in the consolidated cases of In the Matter of the Petition for Habeas Corpus of Camilo L. Sabio, which cited Article VI, Section 21 of the Constitution, as follows:

"The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected."

The Court explained that such conferral of the legislative power of inquiry upon any committee of Congress, in this case the respondents Senate Committees, must carry with it all powers necessary and proper for its effective discharge.

On this score, the respondents Senate Committees cannot be said to have acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction when it submitted Committee Resolution No. 312, given its constitutional mandate to conduct legislative inquiries. Nor can the respondent Senate be faulted for doing so on the very same day that the assailed resolution was submitted. The wide latitude given to Congress with respect to these legislative inquiries has long been settled, otherwise, Article VI, Section 21 would be rendered pointless.

DISMISSED

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