Garci Tapes Probe Illegal Then, but Can Now Be Held - SC

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court invalidated yesterday the previous investigations conducted by the Senate on the controversial "Hello Garci" tapes, but ruled that a new inquiry may now be conducted legally with the recent publication of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation.

In a decision written by Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, the SC said that "the Senate cannot be allowed to continue with the conduct of the questioned legislative inquiry without duly published rules of procedure, in clear derogation of the constitutional requirement."

The SC took judicial notice of the publication of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation in the Oct. 31, 2008 issues of the Manila Bulletin and Malaya, and said the conduct of inquiries in aid of legislation can now be done by the Senate in accordance with the published rules.

The "Hello Garci" tapes allegedly contained President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's wiretapped instructions to former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to manipulate the results of the 2004 presidential elections in her favor.

Retired Court of Appeals Associate Justices Santiago Ranada and Oswaldo Agcaoili filed a petition with the SC and pleaded to stop the Senate from proceeding with its inquiry.

Garcillano, on the other hand, filed a separate petition seeking to prevent the playing of the tapes in Congress and the inclusion of the contents of the tapes in the reports.

Acting on the two petitions, the SC granted the one filed by Ranada and Agcaoili and dismissed the one of Garcillano with a ruling that the tapes had been played in Congress and heard by its members, and the committee reports on the "Hello Garci" tapes had already been completed.

In granting the petition of Ranada and Agcaoili, the SC said that "the Senate cannot be allowed to continue with the conduct of the questioned legislative inquiry without duly published rules of procedure, in clear derogation of the constitutional requirement."

It cited Sec. 21, Art. VI of the 1987 Constitution which mandates the publication of the rules of procedure of either the Senate or the House of Representatives, or any of its respective committees, before they may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation.

It pointed out that the respondent Senate had admitted in its pleadings and even during oral arguments that the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation had been published in newspapers of general circulation only in 1995 and 2006. …