MANILA, Philippines – Senators and congressmen facing charges in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam may only be suspended by Congress, and not by the court, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Wednesday.
But Drilon said an ethics case must be filed first in Congress against any member before it could act on any complaint.
“Hindi ibig sabihin, kapag may order of suspension, masususpindi ang mambabatas. Ang pag suspindi at pag disiplina ng isang mambabatas sangayon sa Saligang Batas ay nasa Kongreso o Senado at hindi po sa husgado. Kaya kailangang may kaso, ethics na ipa-file doon po sa member ng Congress o member ng Senate,” he said in an interview over radio.
(It does not mean that when there’s an order of suspension, the legislators will be suspended. Suspending or disciplining a legislator, according to the Constitution, is a decision of Congress or the Senate, and not the court. So there should be a case, an ethics complaint that should be filed against a member of Congress or the Senate)
Drilon was responding to reports that some legislators , including three senators, would be charged with plunder over the alleged misused of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as “pork barrel” funds.
Asked then if the legislators who would be charged in court could still continue to perform their work in Congress, the Senate leader said: “Yes that’s correct. They can continue to perform because until they are convicted, they are presumed innocent.”
But Drilon clarified that the filing of charges against the people involved in the scam would only start when the complaint is filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan.
He said the National Bureau of Investigation must first transmit the complaint to the Ombudsman, who would decide probable cause before proceeding with the filing of charges at the Sandiganbayan.
“Kung makakita ng sinasabi nating probable cause ang Ombudsman, pag nakita niya ang ebidensya ay may probable cause, dun palang isasampa ang kaso sa Sandiganbayan,” said Drilon.
(If the Ombudsman finds probable cause, that’s the only time a case will be filed at the Sandiganbayan)
And while plunder is a non-bailable offense, Drilon said the issuance of a warrant of arrest without bail was not also automatic.
“Hindi naman automatic yung warrant of arrest na walang bail kung hindi susuriin muli ng Sandiganbayan if the evidence of guilt is strong. Kung malakas ang ebidensya, dun lang mag-iissue ng warrant. Hindi po automatic ‘yan,” he said.
(The issuance of a warrant of arrest without bail is not automatic. Sandiganbayan will have to review if the evidence of guilt is strong. If the evidence is strong, that’s the only time the warrant will be issued. It’s not automatic.)
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