Senator Santiago: Elected officials are not absolute rulers | Inquirer News

Senator Santiago: Elected officials are not absolute rulers

/ 06:39 AM April 26, 2015

Mayors are not absolute rulers and they and other elective officials should not resist a lawful suspension order, according to Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Santiago on Friday assailed the practice of elective officials barricading themselves in their offices and getting their supporters to mass outside to block any attempts to remove them, saying she will seek a Senate probe into the matter and the need for a new law to punish such practice.

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“I am alarmed that the brazen act of resisting a suspension is becoming normal practice. What makes elective officials think that they are indisputably entitled to their offices? They are not absolute rulers, they are subject to the law,” Santiago said in a statement.

She said the practice inevitably eroded the punitive powers of the government such as of the Office of the Ombudsman, the Civil Service Commission and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

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This could allow corruption to flourish, she warned.

“If left unchecked, this deplorable practice will embolden officials to be corrupt. We must protect the integrity of institutions that mete out penalties to uphold the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust,” she said.

Her statement came amid the issue of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay fighting his suspension over a corruption investigation, which the mayor sought to be blocked.

The Court of Appeals eventually ruled in Binay’s favor and issued an injunction against his suspension.

Prior to the court ruling, Binay had holed up inside his office and refused to obey the Ombudsman order. His supporters blocked access to City Hall to prevent the suspension order from being served.

Santiago also cited cases of ousted Laguna Gov. ER Ejercito, who was found guilty of election overspending in 2014, and of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, who was ordered suspended in 2013. Both also resisted orders for them to vacate their offices.

“In all these cases, the officials facing penalties insisted on due process yet refused to respect the same. This contradiction only shows how self-serving our elective officials have become,” she said.

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According to Santiago, obstacles to having elective officials penalized threaten to disrupt the delivery of public services. In the case of Makati, employees did not know whether to follow Binay or acting Mayor Romulo Peña, she pointed out.

She said that any measure that the Senate would consider against the practice of resisting a suspension should focus on banning elective officials from supporting or financing mass barricades by supporters for their benefit, especially by using public funds.

“The right to assemble is enshrined in the Constitution. But in cases like this, we should ask: Did the supporters assemble voluntarily or were they paid or given incentives? If it is the latter, were public funds used?” she said.

Santiago has a pending bill seeking to make public officials liable for administrative offenses committed during past terms, where she also condemned the condonation doctrine.

Santiago is currently on medical leave from the Senate as she recovers from lung cancer.

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TAGS: Elected officials, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Santiago
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