House leaders oppose Arroyo suspension
MANILA, Philippines–The leadership of the House of Representatives will challenge a Sandiganbayan order preventively suspending former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from office for 90 days in connection with a graft case.
Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the House leadership would write the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division to express its position that Arroyo could not be suspended for an offense allegedly committed while she was not yet in Congress.
Last week, the antigraft court ordered Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to explain why, until now, he has not enforced the suspension order issued against Arroyo.
The order was issued by the Sandiganbayan on July 1 but the House has vacillated on its enforcement.
The House’s position differed starkly from that of the Senate, whose leadership quickly implemented the 90-day preventive suspension orders issued by the Sandiganbayan against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada who are facing plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Enrile was suspended on Sept. 1, and Estrada the following day immediately after the Senate received the suspension orders. Minority senators, however, objected to the suspensions.
Under the Constitution, Gonzales said a lawmaker may be suspended only for disorderly behavior upon a two-third vote of Congress.
“[Arroyo] is being prosecuted for something that she allegedly committed even before she became a congresswoman,” he said.
On July 1, the antigraft court ordered the suspension of Arroyo pendente lite (pending litigation) on graft and unethical conduct charges in connection with the NBN-ZTE bribery and overpricing scandal during her term as President.
Thus, her suspension from office will not satisfy the rationale behind such a preventive measure, which is to stop officials from using their position to influence the case or to hide evidence, Gonzales said.
Arroyo has been placed under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center for a separate plunder case involving her alleged misuse of state lottery funds.
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