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On September 13, 1988, Senate Minority Floor Leader Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile delivered a
speech before the Senate on the alleged take-over of SOLOIL Inc., the flagship of the First
Manila Management of Companies (FMMC) by Mr. Ricardo Lopa. He called upon the Senate to
investigate and look into possible violation of R.A. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices
Act. This allegation was related to the civil and forfeiture case filed by the Presidential
Commission on Good Government (PCGG) before the Sandiganbayan against Benjamin
Kokoy Romualdez for reconveyance, reversion, accounting, restitution, and damages for
thirty-six (36) or thirty-nine (39) companies that were illegally acquired during the term of
President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Petitioner Jose Bengzon, et. al. are lawyers under Bengzons law firm that were impleaded in the
case because they aided and served as incorporators of the firms which Kokoy and his spouse
used in defrauding the Philippine government by using government money to buy into several
big business such as MERALCO, Benguet Consolidated, and PCI Bank.
The Senate Committee on Public Accountability (Blue Ribbon) acted on Sen. Enriles expose
and issued subpoena to petitioners and Mr. Lopa. Mr. Lopa declined to testify since his
testimony may unduly prejudice the case pending before the SBN. Petitioner Bengzon likewise
declined to testify. Thereupon, petitioner filed before the Supreme Court a petition for
prohibition with a prayer for temporary restraining order and/or injunctive relief to stop the
Committee from compelling them to attend and testify in its inquiry. Its reasons are as follows:
(1) the Committee inquiry is not in aid of legislation, (2) the sale of the Romualdez corporations
is a purely private matter outside the power of the Committee, and (3) the inquiry violates their
right to due process.
Whether or not the Senate Blue Ribbon committee can compel the private respondent from
testifying in the inquiry in aid of legislation?
The 1987 Constitution expressly recognizes the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid if
legislation, Art VI Sec 21. This power, no matter how broad, is not absolute and unlimited. The
exercise of this power is circumscribed by the provision, to wit: (1) must be in aid of legislation,
(2) in accordance with its duly published rules and procedures, and (3) rights of persons
appearing must be respected. The rights referred to are the rights under the Bill of Rights which
include the right to due process and the right against self-incrimination.
The expose of Sen. Enrile contained no suggestion of a possible intended legislation. The inquiry
is not in aid of legislation but to find out whether Mr. Lopa has violated a law, a matter which
is best left to the courts not the legislature. When the committee decided to inquire into these
acts, a civil case was already pending before the Courts. The Courts have already acquired
jurisdiction of the issues to be investigated. Allowing the committee to tackle the issues will be
an encroachment into the exclusive power of the judiciary. It would violate the principle of
separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branch of government.
Petition is GRANTED. Senate Blue Ribbon Committee cant compel petitioner from
testifying and producing evidence at the said inquiry.