A day after the Senate implemented the suspension order of the Sandiganbayan against minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Franklin Drilon on Tuesday also suspended Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who is facing plunder and graft complaints in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Drilon said the Senate received the suspension order against Estrada in the afternoon of the same day.
The 90-day suspension means that Estrada will not receive his salary, sign committee reports or hold committee hearings.
Estrada will only be allowed to carry out his duties as a senator once the 90-day suspension is lifted.
The senator, who is accused of amassing P183 million in kickbacks by pouring his pork barrel funds into bogus projects, accepted his suspension but expressed optimism that he will be acquitted.
Acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd questioned the Senate leadership’s move to implement, outright, the anti-graft court’s order without taking it up first with the members of the chamber.
In his manifestation during Tuesday’s session, Sotto asked if the Senate president can implement the order without referring it first to the committee on ethics and privileges, which has jurisdiction on matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity and reputation of the Senate and its members.
“I think the main issue here is that should we take it up as a collegial body,” he said.
But Drilon said there is a clear legal precedent for following the implementation of the suspension order. He cited the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Santiago v. Sandiganbayan in 2001 where the High Court upheld the Sandiganbayan decision to suspend Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who also faced graft complaints.
Drilon made it clear that the order of the anti-graft court to suspend Enrile and Estrada is distinct from the constitutional power of Congress to discipline its members.