It is the Senate and not the Office of the Ombudsman that has the final say on whether Senator Joel Villaueva is fit to hold office of not, Party-list Rep. Harry Roque said Wednesday.
Roque, in a statement, said the dismissal order issued by the Ombudsman against Villanueva in connection with the alleged misuse of P10 million in priority development assistant fund (PDAF), clashes with Article VI section 16 of the Philippine Constitution which provides the manner in which members of the Senate may be disciplined, suspended or expelled.
The particular provision states that “each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of all its members, suspend or expel a Member.”
It added that a penalty of suspension, when imposed, shall not exceed sixty days.
“What this means is that the Ombudsman’s dismissal order will still go through a vote by all the members of the Senate to be implemented. And the threshold for an affirmative vote is two-thirds of all of its members,” Roque pointed out.
He said that Villanueva’s case is not just a question of preventive suspension, but the removal from public office of a sitting legislator as an administrative penalty.
Roque said it would be best if the case is elevated before the Supreme Court.
“This will certainly be an opportunity for it to further clarify the metes and bounds of the powers of our Office of the Ombudsman as a constitutional body,” he added.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said the Senate cannot act on Villanueva’s dismissal order because they are still waiting for the Ombudsman to resolve the motion for reconsideration filed by the camp of Villanueva.
Pimentel said the Ombudsman gave his office 30 days to respond to the order, but since a motion has been filed by Villanueva, the chamber will have to wait for the anti-graft body to act on the matter.
The Senate president believes that the Ombudsman has no disciplinary authority over members of Congress. He cited Section 21 of Republic Act 6770 which refers to the officials subject to disciplinary action.
Section 21 states, “Office of the Ombudsman shall have disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials of the Government and its subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies, including Members of the Cabinet, local government, government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, except over officials who may be removed only by impeachment or over Members of Congress, and the Judiciary.”