By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed, on account of mootness, the 2018 petition filed by Solicitor General Jose C. Calida and members of his family to stop a Senate inquiry into the family’s security agency which bagged contracts from several government agencies.
While the SC affirmed the power of Congress to conduct investigations in aid of legislation, although not absolute, it said it had to dismiss the Calida family’s petition filed on May 30, 2018 because the 17th Congress closed on June 4, 2019.
“With the closing of the 17th Congress, the investigation into the Proposed Senate Resolution No. 760 automatically closed, rendering this case moot as ‘the conflicting issue that may be resolved by the court ceased to exist,’” the SC said in a full court resolution written by Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen.
Challenged in the petition was a Proposed Senate Resolution No. 760 authored by then Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and several other senators.
In a letter issued by Trillanes, Calida and members of his family were invited for an inquiry for the purpose of “threshing out the various issues arising from Proposed Resolution No. 760.”
The proposed resolution urged the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Government Reorganization to look into the “conflict of interest of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, arising from security service contracts between national government agencies and Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc.”
Calida and members of his family elevated the issue before the SC and asked the High Court to declare “void and unconstitutional” Trillanes’ inviting them to the Senate as they were “issued in respondent’s (Trillanes) sole capacity only or without the authority of the Senate or any of its committees and for serving no legislative purpose.”
They also said the investigation was “clearly intended merely to target and humiliate them.”
In resolving the issue, the SC said “the legislative power to conduct investigations in aid of legislation is conferred by Article VI, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution.”
“Nonetheless, despite the constitutional grant, the power of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to conduct investigations in aid of legislation is not absolute,” it said.
It pointed out that the investigation must comply with the rules of procedures of each House of Congress and must not violate the individual rights of persons invited to testify.
“Hence, the power of legislative inquiry must be carefully balanced with the private rights of those affected. A person’s right against self-incrimination and to due process cannot be swept aside in favor of the purported public need of a legislative inquiry,” it stressed citing previous rulings on the issue.
On top of the closure of the 17th Congress wherein the Proposed Senate Resolution No. 760 was filed, “this Court also takes judicial notice that respondent Trillanes has reached the end of his term as senator.”
Thus, it said, “petitioners’ prayer for this Court to permanently prohibit him (Trillanes) from conducting an investigation into their supposed conflict of interest has likewise been rendered moot.”
“Wherefore, the petition is dismissed,” the SC ruled.