Now moot, SC junks Calida's petition to stop Senate probe into firm contracts
MANILA, Philippines – For being moot, the Supreme Court dismissed Solicitor General Jose Calida's petition which sought to stop the 2018 Senate investigation into his family-owned security firm's government contracts worth at least P358.3 milion.
The supposed investigation was opened by former senator Antonio Trillanes IV during the 17th Congress.
Saying that the 17th Congress has closed, the Supreme Court said the issue is already moot.
"This Court also takes judicial notice that respondent Trillanes has reached the end of his two-year term as senator. Thus, petitioners' prayer for this Court to permanently prohibit him from conducting an investigation into their supposed conflict of interest has likewise been rendered moot," said the unanimous decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
The Supreme Court shied from setting concrete guidelines for future Senate investigations, which means that essentially, if a new senator in the 18th Congress decides to open a new investigation, this decision cannot stop him or her.
The Supreme Court has, in the past, ruled on substantive issues even though the case had become moot. This way, the High Court can set a guideline for future similar situations.
But the High Court did not do that in this case.
Citing an earlier decision, the SC said it can rule on a moot issue if there "is grave violation of the Constitution, the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest is involved, if the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar and the public; and if the case is capable of repetition yet evading review."
"None of the established exceptions exist in this case," said the Supreme Court.
Calida had complained that the supposed investigation had no legislative purpose, even though Trillanes had defended the probe by saying it could prompt a review of laws on conduct of public officials, specifically provisions on conflict of interest.
The Supreme Court noted that legislative inquiries must, in fact, be for the purposes of lawmaking, and that they must still respect people's rights to due process and against self-incrimination.
"However, the deportment and decorum of the members of any constitutional organ, such as both Houses of Congress during a legislative inquiry, are beyond the judicial realm," said the SC.
Calida's security firm Vigilant, which he owns with his wife and 3 children, had bagged at least 16 government contracts, including contracts from the Department of Justice, to which the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is attached, since he became solicitor general in 2016.
This raised questions not only of propriety, but also of possible violations of laws such as the anti-graft law and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which prohibit cases of conflicts of interest. – Rappler.com