MANILA - Complying with an order from the country's anti-graft court, the Senate on Tuesday suspended Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is detained on plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said his office has received an order from the Sandiganbayan denying Estrada's appeal against his 90-day suspension.
"We have no recourse but to impose the preventive suspension," Drilon told fellow senators during Tuesday's session.
Estrada's suspension came a day after the Senate implemented a Sandiganbayan order suspending his co-accused, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
But Senator Vicente Sotto III, a member of the minority bloc, questioned Drilon's move, citing the Senate's rules.
"Such communication from the Sandiganbayan should have been referred to the committee on ethics and privileges, which has jurisdiction over matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity, and reputation of the Senate," he said.
"Should not the Senate be allowed to act as a whole instead of the Senate President doing that?"
Drilon explained that the Supreme Court has ruled in 2001 that the Sandiganbayan has the power to suspend a member of Congress.
He added that the matter was not taken up on the floor because the Sandiganbayan directed the order at his office.
"The order of suspension prescribed in the anti-graft law is distinct from the power of Congress to discipline its own ranks under the Constitution," Drilon said.
Sotto insisted, however, on having senators discuss the matter on the floor so that they can "express our comments on this and our reactions".
Sotto's manifestation was referred to the committee on rules, which schedules floor debates and other discussions.