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Neri vs.

Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers

Doctrine:
Executive Privilege is not a personal privilege, but one that adheres to the Office
of the President. It exists to protect public interests, not to benefit a particular public
official.

Facts:
On September 26, 2007, Romulo L. Neri, the head of the National Economic and
Development Authority (NEDA) appeared before the Senate Committees to testify on
matters concerning the National Broadband (NBN) Project. The project was awarded by
the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to Zhing Xing
Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) in the amount of approximately 16 Billion Pesos
to be financed by the Peoples Republic of China. In a previous hearing, Jose De Venecia
III testified that several executive officials and power brokers were using their influence
to push the approval of the NBN Project by the NEDA. In this present hearing, Neri was
interrogated for eleven (11) hours where he admitted that the Comelec Chairman,
Benjamin Abalos tried to bribe him in the amount of 200 Million pesos for his approval
on NBN Project, which he relays to the then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who also
ordered the latter not to accept the bribe.
On a probe, the petitioner was asked three (3) questions where he invoked the
Executive Privilege, the questions are:
1) Whether or not President Arroyo followed up NBN Project;
2) Whether or not she directed him to prioritize it; and
3) Whether or not she directed him to approve it.

Issue:
Whether or not the three (3) questions which the petitioner refused to answer are
covered by the Executive Privilege.

Ruling:
The three (3) questions are covered by the Executive Privilege/Presidential
Communications Privilege.
The elements of an Executive Privilege/Presidential Communications Privilege
are:
1) The protected communication must relate to a quintessential communication
privilege;
2) The communication must be authored or solicited and received by a close
advisor of the President or the President himself. The advisor must be in operational
proximity of the president; and
3) The presidential communications privilege remains a qualified privilege that
may overcome by a showing of adequate need, such that information sought likely
contains important evidence and by the unavailability of the information elsewhere by
an appropriate investigating authority.
In the case at hand, the three (3) questions involved were qualified in the above
considerations for an Executive Privilege, therefore, making the petitioners invokaed
Executive Privilege valid.
As to the contention of the respondents to the violation to the constitutional
provisions on the right of the people to information on matters of public concern, the
court argued that, petitioner in appearing before the Senate Committees is a compliance
already to that right which is not absolute and subject to certain limitations also like
the Executive Privilege.
Therefore, respondents motion for reconsideration dated April 8, 2008 is hereby
denied.