Enrile wants TRO on Sandiganbayan suspension order
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Juan Ponce Enrile questioned before the Supreme Court the 90-day suspension order imposed by the Sandiganbayan against him.
In a 46-page petition, Enrile also asked the high court to issue a status quo order or a temporary restraining order to cancel the already enforced suspension order.
The Ombudsman filed the charges against Enrile and other officials allegedly involved in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam before the Sandiganbayan. It later asked the court to order Enrile’s suspension, which has been granted and enforced.
Enrile said they recognized the disciplinary power of the Ombudsman but the law itself stated that its disciplinary power does not cover members of Congress, judiciary and those removable by impeachment.
“Because members of Congress (including Enrile), judiciary and those to be impeached are excepted from the disciplinary authority of the Office of the Ombudsman, then the Office of the Ombudsman cannot initiate , or file a motion with the Sandiganbayan for the issuance of a preventive suspension—as such measure or liability may be enforced only by the body having the legal disciplinary authority over the public officer concerned,” Enrile’s petition stated.
“In the case of Enrile, the proper body with the legal disciplinary authority is the Senate,” the petition further stated.
Enrile said “the constitutional grant of power to the legislature to discipline its own members is an affirmation of the objective of creating equal but independent branches of the government.”
Enrile said that Article VI, Section 16 (3) of the 1987 Constitution provides that “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.
The petition further said that since Enrile’s preventive suspension impairs or disrupts the performance of his duties and functions as a lawmaker, then it is only the Senate that can impose that action on him.
“To allow the Judiciary to suspend Enrile from his office as member of Congress is tantamount to a circumvention of the exception to the disciplinary authority of the Office of the Ombudsman. Ultimately, the intention to have a separation of powers among the three branches of government will be nullified,” it added.
He cited the case of Paredes vs Sandiganbayan when then Agusan del Sur Rep. Cefereno Paredes was charged before the Sandiganbayan with violations of the anti-graft law allegedly committed while he was still a governor and suspended from office where he said despite the High Court’s ruling affirming the suspension order, the House of Representatives refused to enforce the suspension.
Enrile, said the proper course of action that the Ombudsman should have taken is to refer its recommendation for his suspension to the Senate for the latter to resolve and enforce according to its rules rather than file a motion for his suspension at the anti-graft court.
He also pointed out that his suspension has no basis since he has yet to be convicted of any crime.
“Enrile should enjoy full civil and political rights, and as the most senior member of the Senate, and, perhaps the entire Congress, who is also its Minority Leader, and therefore, is an ex officio member of all permanent committees of the Senate,” the petition said adding that unless his “suspension “order is lifted , he cannot perform any such duty, and all those who voted him into office would stand to suffer great and irreparable injury, as they will be unfairly silenced in matters of national concern.”
The plunder charges were based on a fact-finding investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Ombudsman backed by voluminous documentary evidence.
Earlier, Enrile asked that he be allowed to post bail stating that he is not a flight risk.
Plunder is a non-bailable offense but the court may allow an accused to post bail for his or her temporary liberty if the prosecution’s evidence is weak.
Aside from this, Enrile also cited his advanced age and voluntary surrender be taken into consideration in his plea for bail.
Enrile is currently under hospital arrest.
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