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MANILA, Philippines -- The House of Representatives will not move to suspend former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo even if the Sandignabayan anti-graft court approves a petition filed by prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman.
Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Maguindanao Representative Simeon Datumanong said a member of the chamber may be suspended only for misconduct or disorderly behavior while in office and by a vote of the majority of all members.
“It is the consistent stand of the House, as provided for in the Constitution, that a member may be suspended only for misconduct in office by majority vote of all the members,” Gonzales said in a text message when asked about the position of the leadership on the prosecutors’ petition.
In a separate statement, Datumanong, an ally of Arroyo in the minority bloc, said the Sandiganbayan cannot suspend a member of Congress.
“Under the Constitution, only the House of Representatives can suspend a member for disorderly behavior,” he added.
The suspension of Arroyo, now representative of Pampanga’s second districty, was sought in connection with the graft case filed against her over the botched national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.
The deal was signed during Arroyo’s incumbency, but she herself scarpped it after the Senate launched an investigation into allegations of kickbacks and overpricing to which her husband Jose Miguel and several officials of her administration were linked.
In the motion filed Tuesday before the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the Ombudsman said the anti-graft law makes suspension mandatory for officials facing valid graft charges.
But Gonzales said the graft charges leveled against Arroyo are beyond the jurisdiction of the House, particularly the ethics committee, since these were allegedly committed when she was president.
“Even in this case, it must be committed during her term as a member of the House of Representatives. Representative Arroyo is being prosecuted for alleged acts she committed before she became a congresswoman and therefore (this is) beyond the jurisdiction of the ethics committee. Hence, any suspension order by the Sandiganbayan will not be enforced,” the Mandaluyong congressman said.
Gonzales cited the case of South Cotabato and General Santos Representative Pedro Acharon Jr., who was slapped last month with a 90-day suspension by the Sandiganbayan over a graft case.
Gonzales said the House did not enforce the suspension order because Acharon committed the alleged violation when he was still mayor of the Mindanao city.