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Romero v Estrada (April 2, 2009, Velasco)

Doctrine: Pendency of a case in court cannot prevent the Congress from conducting legislative inquiry.
Nature: Petition for prohibition with application for temporary restraining order assailing the
constitutionality of the invitations and other compulsory processes issued by the Senate Committee on
Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development with its investigation on the investment of
OWWA funds in the Smokey Mountain Project.
Petitioner:
Regihis Romero II, owner of R-II Builders Inc. under inquiry on the P480M loss of OWWA
Respondent:

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Senate Committee on Labor Employment and Human Resources
Development

Facts:

Aug 15, 2006 petitioner Romero was invited to the hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor
Employment and Human Resources Development to review possible amendments to the pertinent
provisions of RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act.
Romero replied Aug 18, 2006 to be excused from appearing and testifying
Aug 28 Committee sent petitioner letter saying his request was denied.
Sen Estrada caused the service of a subpoena on petitioner
Aug 30, petitioners filed petition seeking to bar the Committee from continuing its inquiry, but
failed to secure TRO
Petitioner attended Sept 4 committee investigation
2 days later Petitioner filed urgent plea for TRO but was denied
In this petition, petitioners claim that:
1. The subject matter of the investigation in sub judice owing to the pendency of the Chavez
petition
2. Since the investigation has been intended to ascertain petitioners criminal liability for
plunder, it is not in aid of legislation
3. The inquiry compelled them to appear and testify in violation of their rights against selfincrimination
4. Unless the court immediately issues a TRO, some or all of petitioners would be in danger
of being arrested, detained and forced to give testimony against their will.
Respondents:
1. Purpose of the probe to subject matter raised in Chavez was focused on the alleged
dissipation of OWWA funds to aid senate in determining the propriety of amending RA
8042
2. Petitioners right against self-incrimination was well-protected and could be invoked
when incriminating questions were propounded
Petitioners replied arguing: WON the subject matter on the committees inquiry is sub judice

Issues:

WON subject matter of the Senate inquiry is no longer Sub Judice-NO

o
o
o

Sub judice rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to
avoid pre-judging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of
justice.
Nestle v Sanchez: in the decision of issues of fact and law should be immune from every
extraneous influence; facts should be decided upon evidence produced in court.
Chavez already had a decision on Aug 15, 2007; sub judice rendered moot and academic
by the resolution of July 1, 2008
Assuming that Chavez is still pending: would not bar the continuance of the committee
investigation
Sabio v Gordon: inquiries in Aid of Legislation provide that the filing of pendeny
o any prosecution or administrative action should not stop or abate any inquiry to
carry out a legislative purpose. extended to appealed cases and special civil
actions awaiting final disposition.
Arnault: Inquiries in aid of legislation are undertaken as tools to enable the
legislative body to gather information and thus, legislate wisely and effectively;
power of inquiry is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative
function
Neri: To determine whether there is a need to improve existing laws or enact a
new or remedial legislation.
Standard chartered bank v Senate committee on banks: mere filing of a
criminal or an administrative complaint before a court or quasi-judicial body
should not automatically bar the conduct of legislative investigation. Otherwise it
would be easy to subvert any intended inquiry.
Subpooenas directing petitioners were sent in 2006 or the PAST CONGRESS
Neri: senate of each congress acts separately and independently of the senate
before it; all pending matters and proceedings, even legislative investigations of
the senate of a particular congress are considered terminated upon the expiration
of that congress and it is merely optional on the senate of the succeeding
congress to take up such unfinished matters; but as if presented for the first time
(Rules of the Senate Sec 123)
Garcillano v HOR: termination of the assailed investigations has veritably
mooted the instant petition. Current case, the senate did not opted to take up
anew of the case as unfinished matter.

Held: pursuant to PS resolution NOs. 537 and 543 has ceased to be a justiciable controversy, having been
rendered moot and academic by supervening events heretofore indicated. There is no more investigation
to be continued by virtue of said resolutions; there is no more investigation the constitutionality of which
is subject to challenge.
PETITION DENIED.