Thursday, March 08, 2012

Garcillano vs. House of Representatives (2008)

Facts: This case involves the infamous Garci Tapes which allegedly contained the conversation of PGMA and COMELEC Commissioner Garcillano where the former instructed the latter to manipulate the election results in favor of PGMA. The speech of Cong. Escudero in the House of Reps jumpstarted the congressional investigation over these tapes. During the inquiry, several versions of the wiretapped conversation emerged. But on July 5, 2005, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco, Atty. Alan Paguia and the lawyer of former NBI Deputy Director Samuel Ong submitted to the respondent House Committees seven alleged "original" tape recordings of the supposed three-hour taped conversation. After prolonged and impassioned debate by the committee members on the admissibility and authenticity of the recordings, the tapes were eventually played in the chambers of the House. The House Committee also decided to prepare committee reports based on the recordings and the testimonies of the resource persons in the hearings. 

In the Senate, Senator Lacson also delivered a speech regarding the Garci Tapes. On motion of Sen. Pangilinan, these tapes should be the subject of a legislative investigation by the Senate. However, Senator Richard Gordon aired his concern on the possible transgression of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 4200 if the body were to conduct a legislative inquiry on the matter. Sen. Defensor-Santiago also delivered a privilege speech, articulating her considered view that the Constitution absolutely bans the use, possession, replay or communication of the contents of the "Hello Garci" tapes. 

Because of these developments, Garcillano, and retired CA Justices Ranada and Agcaoili filed separate petitions before the Supreme Court to for Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction. Garcillano prayed that the respondent House Committees be restrained from using these tape recordings of the "illegally obtained" wiretapped conversations in their committee reports and for any other purpose. He further implored that the said recordings and any reference thereto be ordered stricken off the records of the inquiry, and the respondent House Committees directed to desist from further using the recordings in any of the House proceedings. On the other hand, petitioners Ranada and Agcaoili prayed that the Senate be barred from conducting its scheduled legislative inquiry. They argued in the main that the intended legislative inquiry violates R.A. No. 4200 and Section 3, Article III of the Constitution. 

Issue: Whether or not the House Committee hearings and the Senate legislative should be prohibited for violation of RA No. 4200 (Anti-wiretapping Law) and sec. 3, Art. III of the Constitution (privacy of communications) 

Held: The petition of Garcillano praying that the House Committee hearings on the Garci tapes be stopped must be dismissed for being moot and academic. The Court noted that the recordings were already played in the House and heard by its members. There is also the widely publicized fact that the committee reports on the "Hello Garci" inquiry were completed and submitted to the House in plenary by the respondent committees. 

However, the petition for prohibition of petitioners Ranada and Agcaoili must be granted. (However, the ponente did not touch upon the issue of the admissibility of the Garci Tapes. The granting of the second petition was based on the non-compliance of the legislative investigation with sec. 21, art. VI of the Constitution which requires that inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance must be conducted in accordance with the Senate’s duly published rules of procedure. Since the Senate did not publish its rules of procedure, then no inquiry must be allowed lest violate the given constitutional requirement. The phrase "duly published rules of procedure" requires the Senate of every Congress to publish its rules of procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation because every Senate is distinct from the one before it or after it. Since Senatorial elections are held every three (3) years for one-half of the Senate’s membership, the composition of the Senate also changes by the end of each term. Each Senate may thus enact a different set of rules as it may deem fit. Not having published its Rules of Procedure, the subject hearings in aid of legislation to be conducted by the Senate, are therefore, procedurally infirm. 

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