Only Congress can remove its members – Roque

Bea Cupin
Only Congress can remove its members – Roque
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque questions the decision of the Ombudsman against Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwendolyn Garcia, saying its release came 'at a time when such actions could be given political color'

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential spokesman and former representative Harry Roque on Monday, February 12, said the Office of the Ombudsman cannot impose sanctions on members of Congress.

He was reacting to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ order to dismiss Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwendolyn Garcia, also one of the House deputy speakers, from her government post.

“While we respect the findings of the Ombudsman based on the merits of the case, only Congress may suspend or remove its members based on the former’s anti-graft and corruption rulings. She cannot arrogate this power of Congress,” Roque said in a statement.

The dismissal stems from a case concerning the purchase of land by Cebu province when Garcia was governor. Half of the land, which cost close to P100 million, turned out to be a mangrove.

Garcia was dismissed by the Ombudsman for grave misconduct. Morales, however, left it to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to act on the order.

But Roque, who was once a member of the House as Kabayan representative, said only a two-thirds vote from the House plenary may expel Garcia.

Unlike Garcia, Roque had been a member of the minority in the House. But they were allies in several instances, most notably in the complaint against impeached Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista.

Garcia questioned the Ombudsman’s “timing” and later accused Morales of ordering her dismissal as “leverage” for another impeachment case to be dismissed – the Ombudsman’s own.

Roque acknowledged this, saying it was “unfortunate that the decision of the Ombudsman was released at a time when such actions could be given political color.”

“While we leave the merits of the case to the Ombudsman, the release of the decision could have come at a more circumspect time,” he added.

There is an impeachment complaint against Morales pending before the House secretary general. It has not progressed because no lawmaker has endorsed it.

Garcia, as deputy speaker, is an ex-officio member of the House justice committee, which hears all impeachment complaints. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.