The House of Representatives will not implement suspension orders issued against two of its members facing graft charges just yet.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte made the disclosure after an all-party caucus was held at the chamber late Tuesday night, noting that the suspension orders on Rep. Amado Espino of Pangasinan and Rep. LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur have been referred to the 34-strong House Committee on Rules.
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the 90-day suspension of Espino and Villafuerte over graft charges involving allegedly illegal black-sand mining in Lingayen Gulf and an alleged P5-million worth of petroleum products paid to a favored supplier, respectively.
“[The suspension orders were] referred to the Committee on Rules. Now, the ommittee can either refer [the orders]to the [House] ethics panel, refer to the plenary’s Order of Business to be subjected to a vote or the committee can implement it,” Fariñas told reporters.
“The twin orders are directed to the Speaker, asking him to comply by informing the court on what action he has taken. He will reply by saying that he has referred it to the Committee on Rules,” he said.
Fariñas noted that the Sandiganbayan and the House of Representatives have the power to suspend an erring public official.
Under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019, placing a public official charged before the court under preventive suspension is mandatory once the criminal information filed is determined valid.
The Constitution, on the other hand, authorizes the House of Representatives to suspend a member for 60 days or expel a member for disorderly behavior, provided that there is a two-thirds vote of all members.
“It has been the practice of the House that it has never implemented a suspension order. It has stood pat on its power to suspend [its members], while the Supreme Court also did the same by invoking Republic Act 3019. Given these provisions, there’s really a clash [on legality of implementing suspension orders],” Fariñas, a lawyer, said.
He, however, assured the public that the House would not sweep the suspension orders under the rug.
“We will decide as soon as possible,” Fariñas said. LLANESCA T. PANTI