Case Digest: Neri v Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers 549 SCRA 77 and 564 SCRA 152)
FACTS: The Senate issued various Senate Resolutions directing SBRC, among others, to conduct an investigation regarding the NBN-ZTE deal. Neri, the head of NEDA, was then invited to testify before the Senate Blue Ribbon. He disclosed that the COMELEC Chairman Abalos offered him P200M in exchange for his approval of the NBN Project, that he informed PGMA about the bribery and that she instructed him not to accept the bribe. However, when probed further on what they discussed about the NBN Project, he refused to answer, invoking “executive privilege”. In particular, he refused to answer the questions on (a) whether or not President Arroyo followed up the NBN Project, (b) whether or not she directed him to prioritize it, and (c) whether or not she directed him to approve. As a result, the Senate cited him for contempt.
ISSUE: Whether or not the communications elicited by the 3 questions covered by executive privilege
RATIO DECIDENDI: The Supreme Court found the Senate to have gravely abused its discretion in citing the petitioner for contempt for his refusal to answer questions propounded to him in the course of legislative inquiry. The Court declared that “there being a legitimate claim of executive privilege, the issuance of contempt order suffers from constitutional infirmity.” Executive privilege: 2 kinds: presidential communications (between president and executive official) and deliberative process (between executive officials only)