THE Senate should provide advance copies of questions to be asked in a hearing to protect the constitutional rights of resource persons invited to testify, the lawyer of Makati City Hall officials said on Tuesday.
Claro Certeza made the statement as he reiterated his clients’ long-standing request for the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee to provide advance copies of questions to be asked by the senators.
“This request is in line with Senate rules and will ensure the protection of the constitutional rights of witnesses invited to the hearings,” he noted.
Citing the petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC) by former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Romulo Neri against the Senate blue ribbon committee in 2008, Certeza said the High Court recognized that resource persons are entitled to know in advance the questions that will be asked by the committee.
“In the case of Neri vs. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, et. al., G.R. No. 180643, 4 September 2008, the Supreme Court citing settled jurisprudence categorically stated that no (Senate) inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of the Congress, i.e. legislation. Investigations conducted solely to gather incriminatory evidence and ‘punish’ those investigated are indefensible. There is no congressional power to expose for the sake of exposure,” he added.
“The High Court ruled that requiring invitations or subpoenas issued by Senate committees to contain the ‘possible needed statute which prompted the need for the inquiry’ along with the ‘usual indication of the subject of inquiry and the questions relative to and in furtherance thereof’ are reasonable measures for the protection of the constitutional rights of witnesses,” Certeza said.
He noted that the SC has established that “a subpoena issued by the Senate that merely commands a person to ‘testify on what he knows relative to the subject matter under inquiry’ gives the party served with the subpoena the right to demand that he be furnished in advance with the questions to be propounded to him.”
“Our letter addressed to the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee requesting the panel for an advance copy of the questions was sent on October 29 last year, but the sub-committee (is) yet to respond to the request,” the lawyer said.
According to the lawyer, the Makati city hall officials have no intention to defy the subpoena issued by the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee.
He, however, said they cannot be faulted for not appearing in the Senate because their request for an advance copy of the questions to be asked is yet to be acted upon by the panel.