MANILA, Philippines – Almost 3 years after graft charges were filed against former president and now Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over a botched telecommunications contract during her presidency, the anti-graft court has ordered her 90-day suspension.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr’s comment on the Sandiganbayan order on July 1 was, “We’re studying the precedents.”
There are at least 4 precedents in the last 44 years, based on various news reports. In these cases, except for one, all the suspensions were ordered by the Sandiganbayan, and in all those cases, House of Representatives put its foot down and said only the House could suspend its own members.
Here are the cases where a congressman’s suspension was ordered:
1960: On June 23, Cebu Representative Sergio Osmeña Jr delivered a privilege speech, accusing President Carlos Garcia of bribery. A special committee was created to investigate Osmeña’s claims, but he was not able to provide them with enough evidence. The Lower House found him guilty of “serious disorderly behavior for making [claims] without basis in truth and in fact” and suspended him for 15 months.
1997: In a resolution dated June 6, the Sandiganbayan ordered the 90-day suspension of Agusan del Sur Representative Ceferino Paredes Jr following the graft case filed against him in 1993 – when he was still a mayor. The Supreme Court affirmed the anti-graft court’s order, but the House of Representatives – then led by Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr – protested the suspension.
2007: The Sandiganbayan ordered the 90-day suspension of Leyte Representative Eufrocino Codilla Sr in connection with his graft case. Codilla was charged for allegedly building a sports center in his own property when he was mayor of Ormoc City and running a cockpit business from there.
2012: The anti-graft court asked for a 90-day suspension of South Cotabato Representative Pedro Acharon in line with a graft case, wherein he allegedly issued unauthorized travel orders to local officials in 2006 when he was mayor of General Santos City.
The House of Representatives, however, reacted to these suspension orders given by the Sandiganbayan. House leaders said the anti-graft court’s order was not final and executory, and that only the House could suspend any of its members.
They cited Article VI, Section 16(3) of the Constitution: “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of all its Members, suspend or expel a Member. A penalty of suspension, when imposed, shall not exceed sixty days.”
This provision is also in the House Rules, under Section 139.
In the 1997 case of Paredes, even the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the Sandiganbayan order was rebuffed by the House. According to a story by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Congress “even threatened to cut the budgets of the Ombudsman and judiciary to P1 year if these insisted on implementing the suspension order.”
Arroyo’s camp has been fighting in court the government prosecutors’ motion to suspend her. (READ: Arroyo fights suspension)
Do you think the House of Representatives will invoke the same rule in the case of Mrs Arroyo? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. – Rappler.com
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