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Zubiri: SC decision didn’t diminish Senate’s power

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri yesterday downplayed the impact of the Supreme Court (SC)’s decision denying the Senate’s petition challenging the constitutionality of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to bar executive officials from attending Senate hearings.

“It is my position that the ruling does not in any way diminish or disturb long-established doctrines on the legislative’s power to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation,” Zubiri said.

The SC denied the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by the Senate, which challenged the constitutionality of Duterte’s memorandum barring executive officials from attending hearings conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on the budget utilization of the Department of Health (DOH).

Through a memorandum in October 2021, Duterte, through then executive secretary Salvador Medialdea, prohibited executive officials and employees from attending the Senate hearings on the government’s disbursement of COVID-19 funds.

Zubiri clarified that the Senate “respects the Court’s decision and the body will discuss how to move forward with this.”

He said they would “certainly study the decision and use it to strengthen our internal rules while preserving our constitutional mandate.”

The Senate president explained that the SC dismissed the case on procedural and not on substantive grounds – it considered the filing of the case as premature, saying that the jurisdictional issue raised by the executive branch should have been first resolved by the Senate using its own rules.

“We note that the decision recognizes and upholds the inherence and breadth of the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, provided that the inquiry is material or necessary to legislation,” he said.

For former Senate president Vicente Sotto III, the SC decision only supported the Senate as a co-equal branch of the executive, maintaining that he has yet to read the complete SC decision.

“While the SC denied the Senate’s petition, its decision only buttressed the independence of the Senate as a co-equal branch of the executive by declaring that the Senate rules should be followed in resolving