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H. Powers of Congress

1. Legislative inquiries and oversight functions

a. CONCEPT

The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected. (Section 21, Article VI, 1987 Constitution)

The heads of departments may upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments. Written questions shall be submitted to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least three days before their scheduled appearance. (Section 22, Article VI, Ibid.)

Interpellations shall not be limited to written questions, but may cover matters related thereto. When the security of the State or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session. (Ibid.)

2) Legislative investigation v. Court proceedings

A legislative investigation in aid of legislation and court proceedings has different purposes. On one hand, courts conduct hearings or like adjudicative procedures to settle, through the application of a law, actual controversies arising between adverse litigants and involving demandable rights. (Romero v. Estrada, En Banc, G.R. No. 174105, 02 April 2009)

Inquiries in aid of legislation are, inter alia, undertaken as tools to enable the legislative body to gather information and, thus, legislate wisely and effectively; and to determine whether there is a need to improve existing laws or enact new or remedial legislation, albeit the inquiry need not result in any potential legislation. On-going judicial proceedings do not preclude congressional hearings in aid of legislation. (Ibid.)

b. LIMITATIONS

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. (Calida v. Trillanes, En Banc, G.R. No. 240873, 03 September 2019)

An investigation in aid of legislation must comply with:

1) The rules of procedure of each House of Congress; and,

2) Not violate the individual rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. (Ibid.)

2. Non-legislative

a. Informing function

NB: The legislative’s informing function refers to its responsibility in informing and educating the public.

b. Power of impeachment

1) Who may be impeached

The following may be impeached:

1) The President;

2) The Vice-President;

3) The Members of the Supreme Court;

4) The Members of the Constitutional Commissions; and,

5) The Ombudsman. (Section 2, Article XI, 1987 Constitution)

2) Grounds

The above-mentioend impeachable officers may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of:

1) Culpable violation of the Constitution;

2) Treason;

3) Bribery

4) Graft and corruption;

5) Other high crimes; or,

6) Betrayal of public trust. (Ibid.)

3) Procedure

a) Verified Complaint filed before House of Representatives

The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment. (Section 3[1], Article XI, Ibid.)

A verified complaint for impeachment may be filed:

1) By any Member of the House of Representatives; or,

2) By any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by any Member thereof. (Section 3[2], Article XI, Ibid.)

The verified complaint which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten (10) session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three (3) session days thereafter. (Ibid.)

b) House Resolution

The Committee, after hearing, and by a majority vote of all its Members, shall submit its report to the House within sixty (60) session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within ten session days from receipt thereof. (Ibid.)

c) 1/3 vote to endorse impeachment

A vote of at least one-third (1/3) of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either:

1) To affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the Committee; or,

2) To override its contrary resolution. (Section 3[3], Article XI, Ibid.)

The vote of each Member shall be recorded. (Ibid.)

d) Trial before the Senate

In case the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment is filed by at least one-third (1/3) of all the Members of the House, the same shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment, and trial by the Senate shall forthwith proceed. (Section 3[4], Article XI, Ibid.)

The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. When sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath or affirmation. (Section 3[6], Article XI, Ibid.)

When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside, but shall not vote. (Ibid.)

e) 2/3 vote for conviction

No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds (2/3) of all the Members of the Senate. (Ibid.)

4) Limitations

a) Once a year only

No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year. (Section 3[5], Article XI, Ibid.)

b) Limited to removal and disqualification from holding office

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines, but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment according to law. (Section 3[7], Article XI, Ibid.)

c. Power to declare existence of warAdded

The Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war. (Section 23[1], Article VI, 1987 Constitution)

d. Emergency powersAdded

In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof. (Section 23[2], Article VI, 1987 Constitution)

In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest. (Section 17, Article XII, Ibid.)

1) Congress as repository of emergency powers

Generally, Congress is the repository of emergency powers. (David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, G.R. No. 171396, 03 May 2006)

a) May be delegated to the President

Under Section 23 (2), Article VI, 1987 Constiution, it authorizes delegation of emergency powers to the President. (Ibid.)

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