Ombudsman wants lawmaker grounded

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A SUSPENSION order may greet Representative-elect Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu province now that the Office of the Ombudsman moved the Sandiganbayan to unseat her from public office.

State prosecutors asked the Sandiganbayan Second Division to suspend the already-suspended outgoing governor of Cebu province in a four-page motion to suspend the accused pendent lite (pending trial).

Stipulated in the pleading, the Ombudsman said that Garcia is occupying the provincial seat of Cebu and as such, by virtue of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, she must be suspended.

Citing Supreme Court jurisprudence, government fiscals said that Section 13 of the anti-graft law providing for the suspension of active officials “is unequivocal and mandatory.

“There are no ifs and buts about it . . . Considering the nature of the indictment and the validity of the criminal information, her suspension from any government position and office she may be holding, is mandatory,” the motion read.

Sandiganbayan spokesman lawyer Renato Bocar said that even if state lawyers noted that Garcia is the Cebu governor, she could be ordered to vacate her position once the 16th Congress starts on July 22.

Citing the amendment to Section 13 of the anti-graft law, Bocar said that a public officer may be suspended “regardless of the government office he is holding.

“An accused can be suspended from any office which he may be holding at present which may not be the same office under which he was originally charged,” Bocar said.

However, as rules in the House of Representatives have it, a lawmaker cannot be booted out of the 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.

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