COLUMN: 6 important questions about a possible Senate inquiry into Gilas, answered

Aug 2, 2022
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SBP President Al Panlilio at the Philippine Olympic Committee elections on November 2020.
PHOTO: Jerome Ascano

FIVE SENATORS recently filed a resolution to conduct an inquiry on the Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball team. With the 2023 FIBA World Cup just a year away — and with the Philippines co-hosting it with Japan and Indonesia — it seems the sense of urgency to fix Philippine basketball has reached the halls of Senate.

Some people will surely applaud the Senate move, while some will see it as another opportunity for government interference into sports. But let’s dive into the basic legal principles involved in this situation.

(For more on sports law issues, visit Batas Sportiva.)

Can the Senate conduct such an inquiry?

Yes, as long as the inquiry is in aid of legislation. Under Article VI, Section 21 of the Philippine Constitution, the Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquires in aid of legislation. This power stems not only from the Constitution but also from the nature and duty of the Senate to pass laws.

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According to Senate Resolution No. 83, the inquiry is indeed in aid of legislation, as it states the Senate will “conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the ways to support the Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball team.”

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Since the inquiry will be in aid of legislation, will a "Gilas law" be actually passed?

Not really. The Senate’s power to pass laws is plenary. That means it can decide to conduct an inquiry and then decide that it is within the interest of Philippine basketball to not pass any law.

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The Supreme Court has ruled that inquiries do not need to result in any potential legislation. Hence, the Senate can summon the folks from SBP to appear before it, ask them questions, and then not pass any law in the end.

Can SBP officials refuse to appear in front of the Senate?

They may not refuse to appear. Once the Senate issues a summons for them to appear, they have to go. If not, the Senate may cite them in contempt — which can lead to their detention.

The power of the Senate to cite people in contempt is a matter of self-preservation and part of their legislative power to have people appear before them to help them pass laws (or not pass laws if they deem it so). Without it, the Senate will be unable to perform its Constitutional function to legislate without impediment or obstruction.

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    Did you say detention? So if the SBP officials are cited in contempt, they can get jailed?

    Yes. The Senate may detain witnesses or resource speakers who are cited in contempt. The detention ceases once the Senate Committee report is approved or disapproved, or at the end of Congress.

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    So, it's best to comply with the Senate.

    Assuming SBP officials do appear before the Senate, can they refuse to answer questions?

    Not really. As long as the questions are material or have a direct relation to any proposed or possible legislation, they have to answer these questions. If they don’t, they may also be cited for contempt.

    There are only certain questions that may be refused, such as those that touch upon executive privilege; military, diplomatic, and national security matters; or trade secrets. These don’t seem to apply to SBP or Gilas Pilipinas.

    It seems like everything’s in favor of the Senate, so can they just ask anything they like?

    Well, they do have to respect the rights of the SBP officials. Under Article VI, Section 21 of the Philippine Constitution, the rights of persons appearing in, or affected by, such inquiries shall be respected. One of these rights is the right against self-incrimination. Hence, if a question calling for an incriminating answer is propounded, then SBP officials may validly refuse to answer it.

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    The Senate’s question must also be material to the proposed legislation to help Gilas Pilipinas. Hence, the Senate shouldn’t ask a question which has nothing to do with Gilas Pilipinas or sports in general. SBP officials may validly refuse to answer these irrelevant questions.

    Whatever happens next, here’s to hoping that Gilas Pilipinas will wave our flag high in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

    Mickey Ingles is the editor-in-chief of Batas Sportiva, practices sports law for ILC Law, and teaches Constitutional Law in the Ateneo Law School. He is also the author of Alinam, a young adult fantasy novel published by Summit Media.

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    SBP President Al Panlilio at the Philippine Olympic Committee elections on November 2020.
    PHOTO: Jerome Ascano
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