By Genalyn Kabiling
Only Congress has the authority to suspend or remove its members, Malacañang said Wednesday following the Office of the Ombudsman’s (OMB’s) dismissal of House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia from service.
“While we respect the findings of the Ombudsman based on the merits of the case, only Congress may suspend or remove its members based on the former’s anti-graft and corruption rulings. She cannot arrogate this power of Congress,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
In Congress, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez made it clear that he would not implement the Ombudsman order dismissing Garcia from office as representative of Cebu.
“My appropriate action is not to implement the order,” said Alvarez.
The House leader explained that “there is nothing in the Constitution” that grants him the power to implement the Ombudsman directive.
“It is not within the power of the Ombudsman to discipline, much more to remove any member of the House of Representatives,” Alvarez stressed.
The Palace shares the same view, with Roque, a former congressman, saying: “Only the House of Representatives, convened in plenary and by a two-thirds vote, can expel Deputy Speaker Garcia from its rolls.”
The Ombudsman had ordered the dismissal of Garcia for grave misconduct in connection with an alleged anomalous property construction contract. It said Garcia violated the country’s laws prohibiting the entry into a contract without the issuance of a certification of appropriation and fund availability.
The dismissal order reportedly carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of retirement benefits.
Roque however found suspicious the Ombudsman’s decision against Garcia.
He said said it was “unfortunate” that the Ombudsman decision was released “at a time when such actions could be given political color.”
“While we leave the merits of the case to the Ombudsman, the release of the decision could have come at a more circumspect time,” he said.
Earlier, Garcia said the timing of the Ombudsman resolution to unseat her “is highly suspicious,” adding that it “amounts to a blatant attempt to strong arm” her into helping her excape from the House impeachment.
“Considering that I have been vigorously and actively involved in the dispatch of impeachment complaints such as the one against Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, it is no surprise that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who now faces an impeachment complaint against her, would want to have the impeachment complaint dimissed by strong arming key members of Congress such as myself,” she stated.
Garcia added: “My dismissal from service at her hands makes her motivation far too obvious.”