Ex-CJ Puno Legal Opinion: Why Senate Should Push for Napoles to Testify in Blue Ribbon Committee Hearings

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno (Official Photo)
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno (Official Photo)
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno
(Official Photo)

Senate President Franklin Drilon may have good intentions in heeding the advise of Ombudsman Conchita Morales-Carpio not to make Janet Lim Napoles testify in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, but many  believe such abdication of Senate power is in violation of important provisions of the Constitution that protect democracy.

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said: “The Senate, thru its Blue Ribbon Committee, should uphold its right to investigate in aid of legislation. This right to investigate is a crucial component of the power to enact laws which the Constitution exclusively grants to Congress.”

Puno said this constitutional right to investigate in aid of legislation cannot be defeated nor diminished by any confidentiality rule which is only found in the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman. “An administrative rule can never negate a constitutional grant of power,” he said.

The Former Chief Justice warned that destroying this exclusive power is dangerous in because “it can destroy the check and balance mechanism of governmental powers so delicately crafted in our Constitution.”

“Worse, any substantial erosion of the power of Congress to investigate in aid of legislation can lead to the impotence of Congress to enact laws.” Puno said the Senate is wrecking itself as an institution, and this, he said, “is the greatest tragedy of the [priority development assistance fund] scandal”.

Fil-Ams Clamor for Drilon’s Resignation

Washington-DC based Fil-Am community leader and Independent International Law and Human Rights Lawyer Atty. Arnedo Valera supports the call of United States Against Pork Barrel (USAP) for Drilon to resign as Senate President.

Valera said as Senate President, Sen. Drilon should categorically affirm the power of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate any anomalies of public officials and their cohorts in aid of legislation.  He contends that It is unwise for a Senate President to even suggest that he needs to follow the advise of the Ombudsman.“

“Your role as Senate President is to wield the independence of the Senate and investigate your peers whether or not plunder of our hard earned taxpayers money in billions of pesos were committed.”

“The Ombudsman cannot serve as a stumbling block in the exercise of the plenary powers of the Senate. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is not a social media or a branch of the press.”

Valera said Drilon must show his leadership by initiating as Senate President or encouraging others to file complaint against the Senators identified in this plunder before the Senate Ethics Committee. He stressed that this committee must be immediately convened and work with the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

“Justice is not something you beg for. You seek it with prudence and objectivity because the principle of governance is not only about strengthening our government institutions,” Valera said. “ It is also making sure that these same institutions given the political power do not use this to enrich themselves and steal peoples money that should have been spent for foods, jobs, housing, education, health care and other basic needs.

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