MANILA - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday called for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on officials who barricade themselves in their offices to resist suspension or removal by authorities.
In a statement, Santiago said she is alarmed that the "brazen act of resisting suspension is becoming normal practice."
"What makes elective officials think that they are indisputably entitled to their offices? They are not absolute rulers; they are subject to the law," she said.
She added: "If left unchecked, this deplorable practice will embolden officials to be corrupt. We must protect the integrity of institutions that mete out penalties in upholding the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust."
Santiago's statement came after the Supreme Court started hearing oral arguments on the Ombudsman's power to suspend Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay over alleged irregularities in the Makati City Hall Building 2 project.
Binay refused to leave his office, with supporters barricading the Makati City Hall, until the Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order against the Ombudsman suspension order.
During the oral arguments, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales insisted the CA cannot stop acts of the Ombudsman, which is an independent constitutional body.
Santiago said she is set to file a resolution on Monday urging her colleagues to determine the need for a law punishing officials who launch mass protests to bar the service of their suspension or removal orders.
She said that aside from Binay, ousted Laguna Governor ER Ejercito also refused to leave his office after being found guilty of overspending in the 2013 elections.
Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia also refused to leave office after being suspended by Malacanang in 2013.
"In all these cases, the officials facing penalty insisted on due process yet refused to respect the same. This contradiction only shows how self-serving our elective officials have become,” the senator said.
Santiago added that barricades in favor of elective officials being penalized threaten to disrupt the delivery of public services. She cited the case of Makati, where employees were confused between orders from Binay and then-acting mayor Kid Peña.
She also warned that such practice inevitably erodes the punitive power of government authorities such as the Office of the Ombudsman, the Civil Service Commission, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Santiago said any measure the Senate will contemplate against the practice of resisting suspension should focus on prohibiting elective officials from supporting or financing mass barricades to their benefit, especially using public funds.
"The right to assemble is enshrined in the Constitution. But in cases like this, we should ask: Did the supporters assemble voluntarily or were they paid or given incentives? If it is the latter, were public funds used?" she asked.
The senator, who remains on medical leave due to her lung cancer, stage four, earlier filed Senate Bill No. 2716, amending the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act to make public officials liable for offenses committed in past terms.
Santiago said the bill rejects the so-called doctrine of condonation, a legal view invoked by the Binay camp in claiming that the Makati mayor should not be prosecuted over the alleged overpricing of the Makati parking building.