Petitioners assail the non-publication of the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole. Respondent counters that publication is not necessary because the Senate Committee of the Whole merely adopted the Rules of the Ethics Committee which had been published in the Official Gazette on 23 March 2009. Respondent alleges that there is only one set of Rules that governs both the Ethics Committee and the Senate Committee of the Whole.
In Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations,24 the Court declared void unpublished rules of procedure in Senate inquiries insofar as such rules affect the rights of witnesses. The Court cited Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution which mandates:
Sec. 21. 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. (Emphasis supplied)
The Court explained in the Resolution25 denying the motion for reconsideration:
The language of Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution requiring that the inquiry be conducted in accordance with the duly published rules of procedure is categorical. It is incumbent upon the Senate to publish the rules of its legislative inquiries in each Congress or otherwise make the published rules clearly state that the same shall be effective in the subsequent Congresses or until they are amended or repealed to sufficiently put public on notice.
If it was the intention of the Senate for its present rules on legislative inquiries to be effective even in the next Congress, it could have easily adopted the same language it had used in its main rules regarding effectivity.
Lest the Court be misconstrued, it should likewise be stressed that not all orders issued or proceedings conducted pursuant to the subject Rules are null and void. Only those that result in violation of the rights of witnesses should be considered null and void, considering that the rationale for the publication is to protect the rights of the witnesses as expressed in Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution. Sans such violation, orders and proceedings are considered valid and effective.26 (Emphasis supplied)
In the recent case of Gutierrez v. The House of Representatives Committee on Justice, et al.,27 the Court further clarified:
x x x inquiries in aid of legislation under Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution is the sole instance in the Constitution where there is a categorical directive to duly publish a set of rules of procedure. Significantly notable in Neri is that with respect to the issue of publication, the Court anchored its ruling on the 1987 Constitution’s directive, without any reliance on or reference to the 1986 case of Tañada v. Tuvera. Tañada naturally could neither have interpreted a forthcoming 1987 Constitution nor had kept a tight rein on the Constitution’s intentions as expressed through the allowance of either a categorical term or a general sense of making known the issuances.28
The Constitution does not require publication of the internal rules of the House or Senate. Since rules of the House or the Senate that affect only their members are internal to the House or Senate, such rules need not be published, unless such rules expressly provide for their publication before the rules can take effect.
In this case, the proceedings before the Senate Committee of the Whole affect only members of the Senate since the proceedings involve the Senate’s exercise of its disciplinary power over one of its members. Clearly, the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole are internal to the Senate. However, Section 81, Rule 15 of the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole provides:
Sec. 81. EFFECTIVITY. These Rules shall be effective after publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.29
Hence, in this particular case, the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole itself provide that the Rules must be published before the Rules can take effect. Thus, even if publication is not required under the Constitution, publication of the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole is required because the Rules expressly mandate their publication. The majority of the members of the Senate approved the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole, and the publication requirement which they adopted should be considered as the will of the majority. Respondent cannot dispense with the publication requirement just because the Rules of the Ethics Committee had already been published in the Official Gazette. To reiterate, the Rules of the Senate Committee of the Whole expressly require publication before the Rules can take effect. To comply with due process requirements, the Senate must follow its own internal rules if the rights of its own members are affected.