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Osmeña v Pendatun, et al.

(in their capacity as members


of the Special Committee created by House Resolution No. 59)
GR. No L-17141, 28 October 1960

FACTS:

On 23 June 1960, Congressman Sergio Osmena, Jr., a member of the House of


Representatives, delivered on the Chamber a speech entitled ‘A Message to Garcia’. In his
speech, he expressed that there have been ‘ugly’ reports under his administration that “the free
things they used to get from the government are now for sale at premium prices’”, that “even
pardons are for sale”. He expressed that regardless of the gravity of a criminal case, the culprit
can always be bailed out from jail. He said that he is afraid that such situation would reflect
badly on the kind of justice the administration is dispensing.

Because of this, a special committee of 15 members (with Pendatun) was created to investigate
the truth of his charges against the President, and it was authorized to simmon Osmena Jr. to
appear before it to substantiate his charges, as well as to issue subpoena and/or subpoena
duces tecum to require the attendance of witnesses and/or production of pertinent papers
before it. Failure to do so, Osmena Jr. is required to show cause why he should not be punished
by the House.

Osmena then submitted a petition for declaratory relief, certiorari and prohibition with preliminary
injunction against Pendatun and the other 14 Congressmen in their capacity as members of the
Special Committee created by House Resolution No. 59. He asked for the annulment of such
Resolution on the ground of infringement of his parliamentary immunity and that the said
members of the community be enjoined from proceeding in accordance with it.

In his request, Osmena alleged:


(1) Resolution violated his constitutional absolute parliamentary immunity for speeches
delivered in the House;
(2) His words constituted no actionable conduct;
(3) After his allegedly objectionable speech and words, the House took up other business,
and Rule XVII, sec 7 of the Rules of the House provides that if other business has
intervened after the Member had uttered obnoxious words in debate, he shall not be
held to answer therefor nor be subject to censure by the House.

After giving Osmena a chance to defend himself, he was the found guilty of serious disorderly
behaviour in House Resolution No. 175, and suspending him from office for 15 months.
Respondent defended the power of the Congress to discipline its members with suspension,
upheld House Resolution No. 175 and challenged the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the
petition of Osmena.
ISSUES:
Whether or not Osmena’s immunity has been violated?

RULING:
Petition is dismissed.

RATIONALE:

Section 15, Article 6 of our Constitution provides that “for any speech or debate” in Congress,
the Senators or Members of the House of Representatives “shall not be questioned in any other
place”. This is a guarantee that the legislator can exercise complete freedom of expression
without fear of being made responsible in criminal or civil actions before the courts or any other
forum outside of the Congress. Although exempt from prosecution or civil actions for their words
uttered in Congress, the members may still be questioned in the Congress itself when his words
and conduct are considered by the Congress disorderly and unbecoming a member thereof.
Furthermore, the Rules of the House which petitioned himself has invoked (Rule XVII, Sec 7),
recognizes the House’s power to hold a member responsible “for words spoken in debate”.

Regarding the third argument of the petitioner that the House may no longer take action against
him because after his speech, and before approving Resolution No. 59, the House had taken up
other business. Respondents said that the Resolution was unanimously approved by the House,
that such approval amounted to a suspension of the House Rules, which according to standard
parliamentary practice may be done by unanimous consent. Parliamentary rules are merely
procedural, and with their observance, the courts have no concern. They may be waived or
disregarded by the legislative body and mere failure to conform to the parliamentary usage will
not invalidate the action when the requisite number of members have agreed to a particular
measure.

On the question whether delivery of speeches attacking the Chief Executive constitutes
disorderly conduct for which Osmena may be disciplined, the Court held that the House is the
judge of what constitutes disorderly behavior, not only because the Constitution has conferred
jurisdiction upon it, but also because the matter depends mainly on factual circumstances of
which the House knows best but which not be depicted ‘in black and white for presentation to
and adjudication by the Courts. If the Court assumed the power to determine whether Osmena’s
conduct constituted disorderly behaviour, it would violate the separation of powers.

As in the landmark case of Clifford vs French (Note: American Jurisprudence because this case
happened in 1960), it was held that every legislative body in which is vested the general
legislative power of the state has the implied power to expel a member for any cause which it
may deem sufficient. If applied in the case at bar, the House has the exclusive power, the
Courts have no jurisdiction to interfere.