Press Release
April 20, 2006


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional law expert, described as unconstitutional the executive order issued by President Arroyo banning cabinet members and other high officials from testifying in Congress, without her prior approval.

It is presumed to be unconstitutional, because it serves to limit or restrict the constitutionally protected powers of Congress, such as the power to investigate any anomaly, to discuss and approve the budget, and to hold confirmation hearings, she said.

Santiago said the executive order violates the overbreadth doctrine in constitutional law, because the ban is too comprehensive, and is not limited to certain persons, topics, or times.

It is overbroad and therefore unconstitutional. To pass the test of constitutionality, the executive order should be amended by limiting the ban only to particular situations, she said.

However, the senator cautioned her colleagues in Congress not to take hasty action, and instead wait for the Supreme Court to decide the pending case on the issue of constitutionality.

Congress should avoid impulsive retaliatory measures, such as citing for contempt absent cabinet members, or abolishing the budgetary appropriations of their departments. It is best to be patient, because haste makes bad law, she said.

Santiago quoted the decision of a famous American jurist, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in the 1928 case of Springer v. Philippines, that it is unconstitutional to divide the three departments of government into watertight compartments.

There is no specific constitutional provision for the separation of powers. The doctrine of separation is merely implied. Hence, separation is not a rigid doctrine, but must be carried out in the context of the doctrine of checks and balances, she said.

Santiago said that senators were angered and offended by the latest executive order.

Senators view the latest executive order as provocative, because they tend to emasculate Congress. The executive orders pushed the envelope to the edge of the table, she said.

Santiago said that no other tripartite democracy in the world, not even the U.S., has imposed such a ban.

The rule of tripartite democracy is interdepartmental comity, or courtesy. At the very least, the executive orders violate this rule of comity. I think Pres. Arroyo got bum legal advice, she said.

Santiago blamed cabinet members and other lawyer wannabes around Pres. Arroyo for pushing the executive orders.

The cabinet should protect the President from controversy by diligently preparing their testimonies at congressional hearings. They should not hide behind the Presidents skirt, she said.

Santiago said that in the final analysis, the issue will be one of credibility on the part of the Supreme Court.

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