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Garcia: Defend House powers from Ombudsman

/ 05:39 PM February 14, 2018

House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia has chewed out opposition lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman—in a privilege speech, no less—for defending the Ombudsman’s order dismissing her from public office despite being an incumbent congresswoman.

In a strongly worded speech, Garcia also called on her colleagues to defend the House from the Ombudsman’s encroachment, not necessarily her.

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“Instead of allowing an illegal encroachment on what is constitutional and statutory the exclusive domain of this House, we all stand together. Not necessarily to stand with me, but to stand guard and stand true to this institution, the Constitution and the laws,” Garcia said.

The Cebu third district representative stressed Section 13, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution made no “mention, nay even suggestion, that the Ombudsman has the power to discipline any member of Congress, much less to remove such members.”

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Punish

At the same time, she noted Section 16(3) of Article VI of the Constitution provided for Congress to punish, suspend or expel its members for disorderly conduct, upon a vote of two-thirds of the chamber’s members.

Meanwhile, she said Section 21 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989 specifically excempted “members of Congress” from the government watchdog’s disciplinary authority.

“Does the Ombudsman law allow the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss or remove a member of the House of Representatives? The answer is no,” Garcia said. “Not just ‘no, there is no provision under the Ombudsman Law.’ Rather, the answer is: ‘no, the Ombudsman Law specifically and expressly prohibits it.’”

Swipe

Garcia even took a swipe at Lagman, pointing out the opposition lawmaker even sat in the post-Marcos Eighth Congress that passed the Ombudsman Act.

She was reacting to Lagman’s disagreement with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s pronouncement that he would not enforce the Ombudsman’s Jan. 15 order.

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“The Ombudsman law is clear with respect to the implementation of the decisions of the Ombudsman even pending motion for reconsideration,” Lagman said Tuesday.

Alvarez said the Constitution did not empower the Ombudsman to discipline congressmen, but Lagman said: “I don’t know what Constitution he is referring to.”

Garcia refused interpellation of his privilege speech and Lagman told the plenary that he would just address her barbs next time since it was Valentine’s Day.

Complaint

As of press time, the reclusive Ombudsman had kept silent about Alvarez’s pronouncement despite persistent requests for comment from reporters.

Garcia’s Jan. 15 dismissal for grave misconduct arose from a complaint initiated in 2013 by Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III over the allegedly unauthorized P24.47-million project to backfill a largely underwater property in Naga City when she was governor in April 2012.

She argued the appropriation ordinance for the “airport/seaport and other economic enterprise site development program” should be considered the required authorization from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. But, the Ombudsman said there was no “specific provision” in the ordinance to that effect.

Condonation

The Ombudsman in January 2013 ordered Garcia’s dismissal in connection with the P98.93-million purchase of the same Naga City property in 2008. But, the Court of Appeals set aside the order in an April 2014 decision, as it applied the condonation doctrine, which deemed an official’s reelection to have forgiven his offenses committed during a previous term.

Although the administrative aspect of that case fell flat, the criminal case for graft and malversation regarding the 2008 land purchase remains pending before the Sandiganbayan Second Division.

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TAGS: Constitution, Edcel Lagman, Gwendolyn Garcia, House, Ombudsman, privilege speech
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