Matters relating to the impact of the bribery scandal

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matters relating to the impact of the bribery scandal involving high government officials and the possible loss of confidence of foreign investors and lenders in the Philippines. Respondents found the explanation unsatisfactory, and later on issued an Order citing Neri in contempt and consequently ordering his arrest and detention at the Office of the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms until he appears and gives his testimony. Neri filed the petition asking the Court to nullify both the Show Cause Letter and the Contempt Order for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and stressed that his refusal to answer the three questions was anchored on a valid claim to executive privilege in accordance with the ruling in the landmark case of Senate vs. Ermita (G.R. No. 169777, 20 April 2006). For its part, the Senate Committees argued that they did not exceed their authority in issuing the assailed orders because there is no valid justification for Neri’s claim to executive privilege . In addition, they claimed that the refusal of petitioner to answer the three questions violates the people’s right to public information, and that the executive is using the concept of executive privilege as a means to conceal the criminal act of bribery in the highest levels of government. Issue: Whether or not the three questions that petitioner Neri refused to answer were covered by executive privilege , making the arrest order issued by the respondent Senate Committees void. Discussion: Citing the case of United States vs. Nixon (418 U.S. 683), the Court laid out the three elements needed to be complied with in order for the claim to executive privilege to be valid. These are: 1.) the protected communication must relate to a quintessential and non-delegable presidential power; 2.) it must be authored, solicited, and received by a close advisor of the President or the President himself. The judicial test is that an advisor must be in “operational proximity” with the President; and, 3.) it may be overcome by a showing of adequate need, such that the information sought “likely contains important evidence,” and by the unavailability of the information elsewhere by an appropriate investigating authority. In the present case, Executive Secretary Ermita claimed executive privilege on the argument that the communications elicited by the three questions “fall under conversation and correspondence between the President and public officials” necessary in “her executive and policy decision-making process,” and that “the information sought to be disclosed might impair
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our diplomatic as well as economic relations with the People’s Republic of China.” It is clear then that the basis of the claim is a matter related to the quintessential and non-delegable presidential power of diplomacy or foreign relations .
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