In Neri vs. Senate Committee, the issue of whether publication is necessary to the validity of the Senate rules turned on whether the Senate under the 1987 Constitution is a continuing body.
Is the Senate a continuing body under the 1987 Constitution?
The majority school of thought is that the present Senate under the 1987 Constitution is no longer a continuing legislative body since the present Senate has 24 members, 12 of whom are elected every three years for a term of six years each. Thus, the term of 12 Senators expires every three years, leaving less than a majority of Senators to continue into the next Congress which requires a majority of Senators to constitute a quorum to do business. This point of view was posited by Justice Carpio in his Dissenting and Concurring Opinion in the Neri case, an opinion which, I believe, is shared by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban as can be inferred from his article titled “Arroyo Supreme Court?” which I posted here before this.
On the other hand, the dissenting school of thought principally advanced by the respondent Senators in the Neri argued that the Senate is a continuing body. This argument is supported by no less than Chief Justice Reynato Puno in his Dissenting Opinion when he observed that “the Senators have traditionally considered the Senate as a continuing body despite the change of a part of its membership after an election. It is for this reason that the Senate does not cease its labor during the period of such election. Its various Committees continue their work as its officials and employees”.
It is interesting to note that the Senate has raised a new powerful argument in the Motion for Reconsideration filed on 8 April 2008 which reinforces its position that the Senate is a continuing body. The Senate put forward a new argument that the framers of the 1987 Constitution intended the Senate as a continuing body citing the exchange among the framers during the Constitutional Commission deliberations, to wit :
“MR. RODRIGO. x x x.
x x x .
We will have elections every three years under the scheme and we will have a continuing Senate. Every election, 12 of the 24 Senators will be elected, so that 12 Senators will remain in the Senate. In other words, we will have a continuing Senate.
x x x .
This is just a paragraph of that section that will follow what had earlier been approved. It reads : “Of the Senators elected in the election in 1992, the first twelve obtaining the highest numbers of votes shall serve for six years and the remaining twelve for three years”.
This is to start the staggering of the Senate to conform to the idea of a continuing Senate.