THINGS will definitely change in the Senate once the Ombudsman files plunder complaints before the Sandiganbayan against three senators implicated in the multibillion pork barrel scam.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. will be suspended once the anti-graft court issues a warrant for their arrest.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said their suspension will not be based merely on the Ombudsman’s announcement that plunder and other criminal charges will be filed against the lawmakers.
“I understand that with this resolution, the respondents will still be given the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the Ombudsman ruling, and it is only with the resolution of the motion for reconsideration that the decision will become final, and that, therefore, the case can then be filed at the Sandiganbayan, or it can be dismissed if the Ombudsman finds merit in the motion for reconsideration,” Drilon explained.
Because plunder is a non-bailable offense, the Sandiganbayan will have to order the arrest of the senators upon receipt of the plunder complaint. The lawmakers will be under detention by the anti-graft court.
Subsequently, the Sandiganbayan will suspend the senators and the Senate will have no choice but to comply with the order of the court.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago earlier sought the automatic suspension of senators charged with plunder and graft.
“This means that the senators and representatives implicated as persons of interest shall be suspended from Congress while trial is pending,” Santiago, a constitutional law expert, said.
She cited Section 5 of the Anti-Plunder Act, which states, ”Any public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this Act in whatever stage of execution and mode of participation, is pending in court, shall be suspended from office.”
“That provision is not found in the Constitution, but only in the Senate Rules. While under the Anti-Plunder Act, suspension is mandatory as indicated by the word ‘shall.’
In the Senate Rules, suspension is merely permissive, as indicated by the use of the word ‘may,’” the senator said.