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Arnault v Nazareno Digest

Arnault v Nazareno Digest

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Published by Rea Romero
Arnault v Nazareno case digest
Arnault v Nazareno case digest

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Published by: Rea Romero on Dec 01, 2013
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12/01/2013

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 Arnault v. Nazareno, G.R. No. L-3820, July 18, 1950
D E C I S I O N
 
(En Banc)
 
OZAETA,
J.
:
 
I.
 
THE FACTS
 The Senate investigated the purchase by the government of two parcels of land, known as Buenavista and Tambobong estates. An intriguing question that the Senate sought to
resolve was the apparent irregularity of the government’s
payment to one Ernest Burt, a non-resident American citizen, of the total sum of Php1.5 million for his alleged interest in the two estates that only amounted to Php20,000.00, which he seemed to have forfeited anyway long before. The Senate sought to determine who were responsible for and who benefited from the transaction at the expense of the government. Petitioner Jean Arnault, who acted as agent of Ernest Burt in the subject transactions, was one of the witnesses summoned by the Senate to its hearings. In the course of the investigation, the petitioner repeatedly refused to divulge the name of the person to whom he gave the amount of Php440,000.00, which he withdrew from the Php1.5 million proceeds pertaining to Ernest Burt.  Arnault was therefore cited in contempt by the Senate and was committed to the custody of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms for imprisonment until he answers the questions. He thereafter
 
filed a petition for
habeas corpus
 directly with the Supreme Court questioning the validity of his detention.
II.
 
THE ISSUE
 1.
 
Did the Senate have the power to punish the petitioner for contempt for refusing to reveal the name of the person to whom he gave the Php440,000.00? 2.
 
Did the Senate have the authority to commit petitioner for contempt for a term beyond its period of legislative session? 3.
 
May the petitioner rightfully invoke his right against self-incrimination?
III.
 
THE RULING
 
[The Court
DENIED
the petition for habeas corpus filed by  Arnault.] 
 
1.
 
Yes, the Senate had the power to punish the petitioner for contempt for refusing to reveal the name of the person to whom he gave the Php440,000.00.
  Although there is no provision in the [1935] Constitution expressly investing either House of Congress with power to make investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may exercise its legislative functions as to be implied. In other words, the power of inquiry
 –
 with process to enforce it
 –
 is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to effect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information
 –
 which is not infrequently true
 –
 recourse must be
 
had to others who do possess it. Experience has shown that mere requests for such information are often unavailing, and also that information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion is essential to obtain what is needed. xxx xxx xxx [W]e find that the question for the refusal to answer which the petitioner was held in contempt by the Senate is pertinent to the matter under inquiry. In fact, this is not and cannot be disputed. Senate Resolution No. 8, the validity of which is not challenged by the petitioner, requires the Special Committee, among other things, to determine the parties responsible for the Buenavista and Tambobong estates deal, and it is obvious that the name of the person to whom the witness gave the P440,000 involved in said deal is pertinent to that determination
 it is in fact the very thing sought to be determined. The contention is not that the question is impertinent to the subject of the inquiry but that it has no relation or materiality to any proposed legislation. We have already indicated that it is not necessary for the legislative body to show that every question propounded to a witness is material to any proposed or possible legislation; what is required is that is that it be pertinent to the matter under inquiry. xxx xxx xxx If the subject of investigation before the committee is within the range of legitimate legislative inquiry
and the proposed testimony of the witness called relates to that subject 
, obedience, to its process may be enforced by the committee by imprisonment.

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