New Senate inquiry into Mamasapano courts contempt
Sen. Richard Gordon has announced his intention to conduct another Senate investigation in aid of legislation on the Mamasapano massacre.
I agree with Sen. Franklin Drilon that Congress may no longer conduct such an investigation.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has already indicted those against whom probable cause had been found, including former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
It is my humble yet considered opinion that Congress cannot conduct another legislative investigation in aid of legislation on the Mamasapano massacre after the indictment against those found responsible has been lodged with the Sandiganbayan—because this will violate the sub judice rule. The rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to pending judicial proceedings, particularly those criminal in nature. In his supplemental opinion in People vs. Webb, et al., G.R. No. 176864, Dec. 14, 2010 and Lejandro vs. People, G.R. No. 176389, Dec. 14, 2010, Supreme Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion (ret) said: “The significance of sub judice rule is highlighted in criminal cases, as the possibility of undue influence prejudices the accused’s right to a fair trial. The principal purpose of the sub judice rule is to preserve the impartiality of the judicial system by protecting it from undue influence. Public opinion has no place in a criminal trial.”
Violation of the sub judice rule is punishable by contempt of court under Section 3 (d) of the Rule 71, which reads:
“Sec. 3. xxx a person guilty of any of the following acts may be punished by indirect contempt
x x x x x x
(d) Any improper conduct tending directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct or degrade the administration of justice.”
Senator Gordon is himself a lawyer. I assume he knows this.
We may have another constitutional crisis if the Sandiganbayan would hold the Senate in contempt and the latter would refuse to recognize the Sandiganbayan’s authority.
Congress should avoid creating constitutional crises.
REX G. RICO, [email protected]
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