REP. Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu province is virtually protected from any suspension order that the Sandiganbayan rolls out—the opening of the 16th Congress caught up with the anti-graft court’s lack of resolution to keep her grounded.
Without a resolution from the Office of the Ombudsman’s motion to suspend on Friday, Garcia is already considered safe and will keep her new position as a lawmaker even if the anti-graft court might order her suspension.
A check at the Sandiganbayan Second Division on Friday showed that the anti-graft court magistrates are still deliberating on the motion to suspend pendete lite (pendent lite).
Second Division clerk of court lawyer Jaime Cabrera said that the motion, although already submitted for resolution, is still waiting for the prosecution to comment on Garcia’s motion to quash.
As the 16th Congress opens on Monday with the State of the Nation Address, Garcia takes a big chance of keeping her position considering that the Sandiganbayan will hold no office on Monday in anticipation of traffic congestion along Commonwealth Avenue.
As a result, Garcia is already protected by House rules, which do not instantly apply court orders in view of separation of powers.
In previous instances, the Sandiganbayan ordered the suspension, among others, of former president and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga and former Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. of General Santos City in line with their graft charges filed before the court.
However, they were not suspended from their positions since a rule of the House of Representative stipulates that a lawmaker can only be suspended if the alleged act stemmed from his tenure as a lawmaker.
The Ombudsman is asking for Garcia’s suspension as former governor of Cebu.
Also, a lawmaker cannot be thrown out of Congress easily without investigation from the House Ethics committee.
House leaders have said that it is the lower chamber, which has the sole power to suspend fellow lawmakers when the purported misconduct was committed during a representative’s term.
John Constantine G. Cordon