House yet to implement solons’ suspension for graft
The House of Representatives has yet to implement the suspension order served against Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr. and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte.
The office of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed its compliance to the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division which granted the prosecution’s motion to suspend pendente lite the two congressmen as they face graft charges.
In two separate compliances, Alvarez said the suspension orders against Espino and Villafuerte were referred to the House committee on rules.
“Pursuant to the nature of the House of Representatives as a collegial body, and in accordance with the provisions of the House Rules… to govern the proceedings of the 17th Congress, the Speaker transmitted the Resolution of the Honorable Sandiganbayan… to the Committee on Rules,” Alvarez said.
The compliance was filed to the court by the Office of the Deputy Secretary General and Chief Counsel, Legal Affairs Department acting upon the Speaker’s authority.
In a text message to reporters, majority floor leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Farinas, who chairs the committee on rules, said the committee has held in abeyance its action on Villafuerte’s suspension after the latter filed a motion for reconsideration to the Sandiganbayan.
“The Rules committee has held in abeyance action on the matter as Rep. Villafuerte furnished us a copy of his motion for reconsideration regarding his preventive suspension. It will wait for the final resolution by the competent authorities of the matter,” Farinas said.
Villafuerte faces a graft trial over the allegedly anomalous procurement of P20 million worth of petroleum products for the provincial government when he was Camarines Sur governor in 2010.
Meanwhile, Espino was suspended on a graft charge for allegedly allowing firms to operate illegal black sand mining in the province when he was Pangasinan governor in 2011.
Farinas earlier said the Lower House has never implemented suspension orders from the Sandiganbayan because Congress stood pat on its power to discipline its members.
Farinas also cited a clash in opinion in the anti-graft law mandating the preventive suspension, and the constitutional mandate of Congress to discipline its own rank.
According to Section 13 of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, public officials charged with a valid information of graft will be preventively suspended from office and will lose his or her benefits at the time of his or her suspension.
According to Article VI, Section 16 of the 1987 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 for suspension, when imposed, shall not exceed sixty days.”
“The historical practice is that the House has never implemented the suspension order because it stood pat on its power to suspend its own members,” Farinas then said. JE/rga
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