Senate defies Ombudsman, keeps Villanueva

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THE Senate leadership will not expel Sen. Joel Villanueva despite an order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing the former head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

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Villanueva was charged with graft, malversation, and falsification of public documents in connection with the alleged misuse of P10 million of his pork barrel allocation in 2008.

Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, chairman of the Committee on Rules, pushed for the adoption of the legal opinion issued by the Senate legal counsel, emphasizing that the Office of the Ombudsman has no disciplinary powers over members of congress.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd declared the legal opinion adopted when no senator expressed objection on its adoption.

In a 15-page opinion, Maria Valentina Cruz, legal counsel of the Senate, noted that the penalties imposed against Villanueva by the Office of the Ombudsman cannot and should not be implemented by the chamber because the conditions or requirements for the penalty of expulsion of a member of the Senate are not present.

Sec. 97 rule XXXIV of the rules of the Senate states that upon recommendation of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, the Senate may punish any member for disorderly behavior and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, suspend or expel a member.

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