SPOUSES DELA PAZ vs SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

November 29, 2012
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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 184849               February 13, 2009

SPOUSES PNP DIRECTOR ELISEO D. DELA PAZ (Ret.) and MARIA FE C. DELA PAZ, Petitioners,
vs.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS and the SENATE SERGEANT-AT-ARMS JOSE BALAJADIA, JR., Respondents.

R E S O L U T I O N

NACHURA, J.:

This is a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition1 under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court filed on October 28, 2008 by petitioners-spouses General (Ret.) Eliseo D. dela Paz (Gen. Dela Paz) and Mrs. Maria Fe C. dela Paz (Mrs. Dela Paz) assailing, allegedly for having been rendered with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the orders of respondent Senate Foreign Relations Committee (respondent Committee), through its Chairperson, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (Senator Santiago), (1) denying petitioners’ Challenge to Jurisdiction with Motion to Quash Subpoenae and (2) commanding respondent Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Jose Balajadia, Jr. (Balajadia) to immediately arrest petitioners during the Senate committee hearing last October 23, 2008. The petition thus prays that respondent Committee be enjoined from conducting its hearings involving petitioners, and to enjoin Balajadia from implementing the verbal arrest order against them.

The antecedents are as follow –

On October 6, 2008, a Philippine delegation of eight (8) senior Philippine National Police (PNP) officers arrived in Moscow, Russia to attend the 77th General Assembly Session of the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO)-INTERPOL in St. Petersburg from October 6-10, 2008. With the delegation was Gen. Dela Paz, then comptroller and special disbursing officer of the PNP. Gen. Dela Paz, however, was to retire from the PNP on October 9, 2008.

On October 11, 2008, Gen. Dela Paz was apprehended by the local authorities at the Moscow airport departure area for failure to declare in written form the 105,000 euros [approximately P6,930,000.00] found in his luggage. In addition, he was also found to have in his possession 45,000 euros (roughly equivalent to P2,970,000.00).

Petitioners were detained in Moscow for questioning. After a few days, Gen. Dela Paz and the PNP delegation were allowed to return to the Philippines, but the Russian government confiscated the euros.

On October 21, 2008, Gen. Dela Paz arrived in Manila, a few days after Mrs. Dela Paz. Awaiting them were subpoenae earlier issued by respondent Committee for the investigation it was to conduct on the Moscow incident on October 23, 2008.

On October 23, 2008, respondent Committee held its first hearing. Instead of attending the hearing, petitioners filed with respondent Committee a pleading denominated Challenge to Jurisdiction with Motion to Quash Subpoena.2 Senator Santiago emphatically defended respondent Committee’s jurisdiction and commanded Balajadia to arrest petitioners.

Hence, this Petition.

Petitioners argue that respondent Committee is devoid of any jurisdiction to investigate the Moscow incident as the matter does not involve state to state relations as provided in paragraph 12, Section 13, Rule 10 of the Senate Rules of Procedure (Senate Rules). They further claim that respondent Committee violated the same Senate Rules when it issued the warrant of arrest without the required signatures of the majority of the members of respondent Committee. They likewise assail the very same Senate Rules because the same were not published as required by the Constitution, and thus, cannot be used as the basis of any investigation involving them relative to the Moscow incident.

Respondent Committee filed its Comment3 on January 22, 2009.

The petition must inevitably fail.

First. Section 16(3), Article VI of the Philippine Constitution states:

“Each House shall determine the rules of its proceedings.”

This provision has been traditionally construed as a grant of full discretionary authority to the Houses of Congress in the formulation, adoption and promulgation of its own rules. As such, the exercise of this power is generally exempt from judicial supervision and interference, except on a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use of the power as will constitute a denial of due process.4

The challenge to the jurisdiction of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised by petitioner in the case at bench, in effect, asks this Court to inquire into a matter that is within the full discretion of the Senate. The issue partakes of the nature of a political question that, in Tañada v. Cuenco,5 was characterized as a question which, under the Constitution, is to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government. Further, pursuant to this constitutional grant of virtually unrestricted authority to determine its own rules, the Senate is at liberty to alter or modify these rules at any time it may see fit, subject only to the imperatives of quorum, voting and publication.

Thus, it is not for this Court to intervene in what is clearly a question of policy, an issue dependent upon the wisdom, not the legality, of the Senate’s action.

Second. Even if it is within our power to inquire into the validity of the exercise of jurisdiction over the petitioners by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we are convinced that respondent Committee has acted within the proper sphere of its authority.

Paragraph 12, Section 13, Rule 10 of the Senate Rules provides:

12) Committee on Foreign Relations. – Fifteen (15) members. All matters relating to the relations of the Philippines with other nations generally; diplomatic and consular services; the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; the United Nations Organization and its agencies; multi-lateral organizations, all international agreements, obligations and contracts; and overseas Filipinos.

A reading of the above provision unmistakably shows that the investigation of the Moscow incident involving petitioners is well within the respondent Committee’s jurisdiction.

The Moscow incident could create ripples in the relations between the Philippines and Russia. Gen. Dela Paz went to Moscow in an official capacity, as a member of the Philippine delegation to the INTERPOL Conference in St. Petersburg, carrying a huge amount of “public” money ostensibly to cover the expenses to be incurred by the delegation. For his failure to comply with immigration and currency laws, the Russian government confiscated the money in his possession and detained him and other members of the delegation in Moscow.

Furthermore, the matter affects Philippine international obligations. We take judicial notice of the fact that the Philippines is a state-party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. The two conventions contain provisions dealing with the movement of considerable foreign

currency across borders.6 The Moscow incident would reflect on our country’s compliance with the obligations required of state-parties under these conventions. Thus, the respondent Committee can properly inquire into this matter, particularly as to the source and purpose of the funds discovered in Moscow as this would involve the Philippines’ commitments under these conventions.

Third. The Philippine Senate has decided that the legislative inquiry will be jointly conducted by the respondent Committee and the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon Committee).

Pursuant to paragraph 36, Section 13, Rule 10 of the Senate Rules, the Blue Ribbon Committee may conduct investigations on all matters relating to malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance in office by officers and employees of the government, its branches, agencies, subdivisions and instrumentalities, and on any matter of public interest on its own initiative or brought to its attention by any of its members. It is, thus, beyond cavil that the Blue Ribbon Committee can investigate Gen. Dela Paz, a retired PNP general and member of the official PNP delegation to the INTERPOL Conference in Russia, who had with him millions which may have been sourced from public funds.

Fourth. Subsequent to Senator Santiago’s verbal command to Balajadia to arrest petitioners, the Philippine Senate issued a formal written Order7 of arrest, signed by ten (10) senators, with the Senate President himself approving it, in accordance with the Senate Rules.

Fifth. The Philippine Senate has already published its Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation in two newspapers of general circulation.8

Sixth. The arrest order issued against the petitioners has been rendered ineffectual. In the legislative inquiry held on November 15, 2008, jointly by the respondent Committee and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Gen. Dela Paz voluntarily appeared and answered the questions propounded by the Committee members. Having submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the Senate Committees, there was no longer any necessity to implement the order of arrest. Furthermore, in the same hearing, Senator Santiago granted the motion of Gen. Dela Paz to dispense with the presence of Mrs. Dela Paz for humanitarian considerations.9 Consequently, the order for her arrest was effectively withdrawn.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit and for being moot and academic.

SO ORDERED.

Antonio Eduardo Nachura, J.

Reynato Puno, CJ., Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Antonio Carpio, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Renato Corona, Conchita Carpio Morales, Adolfo Azcuna, Dante Tinga, Minita Chico-Nazario, Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, JJ. concur.

 

READ CASE DIGEST HERE.

 

Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 3-21.

2 Id. at 28.

3 Id. at 126-137.

4 See Morrero v. Bocar, 37 O.G. 445.

5 100 Phil. 101 (1957).

6 Art. 14(2) of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption provides –

State parties shall consider implementing feasible measures to detect and monitor the movement of cash and appropriate negotiable instruments across their borders, subject to safeguards to ensure proper use of information and without impeding in any way the movement of legitimate capital. Such measures may include a requirement that individuals and businesses report the cross border transfer of substantial quantities of cash and appropriate negotiable instruments.

The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime provides –

Art. 7(1), Each State Party:

(a) Shall institute a comprehensive domestic and regulatory and supervisory regime for banks and non-bank financial institutions and, where appropriate, other bodies particularly susceptible to money-laundering, within its competence, in order to deter and detect all forms of money-laundering, which regime shall emphasize requirements for customer identification, record-keeping and the reporting of suspicious transactions;

Art. 7(2):

State Parties shall consider implementing feasible measures to detect and monitor the movement of cash and appropriate negotiable instruments across their borders, subject to safeguards to ensure proper use of information and without impeding in any way the movement of legitimate capital. Such measures may include a requirement that individuals and businesses report the cross-border transfer of substantial quantities of cash and appropriate negotiable instruments. (Underscoring supplied.)

7 Rollo, pp. 138-139.

8 Publication was made in the October 31, 2008 issues of the Manila Daily Bulletin and the Malaya.

9 Rollo, p. 143.

 

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