House to tackle Arroyo suspension

by Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 20 2014 11:34 AM | Updated as of Jul 20 2014 07:34 PM

MANILA - Unlike Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, whom Senate President Franklin Drilon is suspending upon order of the Sandiganbayan, the House of Representatives will decide as a whole on whether to suspend former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr. said the suspension order of the Sandiganbayan against Arroyo in connection with the botched National Broadband Network-ZTE deal could be tackled shortly after Congress resumes session on July 28.

He noted the chamber has not immediately acted on similar orders from courts in view of the separation of powers in the three branches of government.

Gonzales said the Constitution clearly states the independence of Congress and the processes in dealing with erring lawmakers.

A member of Congress could only be suspended upon the vote of three-fourths of its members, he said.

Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte earlier said that under the doctrine of separation of powers, only the chamber can suspend any of its members.

He said the Rules of the House is also silent on how to handle suspension orders against its members, especially when Congress is on recess. There is also no mention of when the chamber should act on such matters.

He said the Speaker can only formally inform the chamber of the Sandiganbayan order when Congress opens session.

Under Rule 23 of the House, he said the Speaker will present the order to the floor and the lawmakers will decide whether the directive is consistent with the rights and privileges of a House member, and when the position of the chamber would be “judicially-viable.”

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. earlier said the suspension order had no “practical effect” as Arroyo has long been in detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City because of her medical condition after she was charged with alleged plunder of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.