D E C I S I O N
I. THE FACTS
The Senate investigated the purchase by the government of two parcels of land, known as Buenavista and Tambobong estates. An intriguing question that the Senate sought to resolve was the apparent irregularity of the government’s payment to one Ernest Burt, a non-resident American citizen, of the total sum of Php1.5 million for his alleged interest in the two estates that only amounted to Php20,000.00, which he seemed to have forfeited anyway long before. The Senate sought to determine who were responsible for and who benefited from the transaction at the expense of the government.
Petitioner Jean Arnault, who acted as agent of Ernest Burt in the subject transactions, was one of the witnesses summoned by the Senate to its hearings. In the course of the investigation, the petitioner repeatedly refused to divulge the name of the person to whom he gave the amount of Php440,000.00, which he withdrew from the Php1.5 million proceeds pertaining to Ernest Burt.
Arnault was therefore cited in contempt by the Senate and was committed to the custody of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms for imprisonment until he answers the questions. He thereafter filed a petition for habeas corpus directly with the Supreme Court questioning the validity of his detention.