MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday said it respects the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, but said only Congress may suspend or remove its members.
The Ombudsman on Monday said it has ordered Garcia’s dismissal for grave misconduct over her approval of the purchase of the P98.9-million Balili property in Naga City in 2008, when she was still governor of Cebu. Much of the property was later found to be underwater.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Ombudsman “cannot arrogate” to Congress the power to dismiss its members.
“Thus, only the House of Representatives, convened in plenary and by a two-thirds vote, can expel Deputy Speaker Garcia from its rolls,” Roque said in a statement.
Like Garcia, Roque also questioned the timing of the Ombudsman’s decision.
Garcia had noted that the dismissal order comes at the time she is “very active in the impeachment hearing against Chief Justice [Maria Lourdes] Sereno.”
“It is also unfortunate that the decision of the Ombudsman was released at a time when such actions could be given political color. While we leave the merits of the case to the Ombudsman, the release of the decision could have come at a more circumspect time,” Roque said.
Garcia in 2012 tapped Supreme ABF Construction to supply backfilling materials for the submerged portion of the land for P24.47 million.
The Ombudsman however found that Garcia had no authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) when she entered into the contract with the firm.
"She failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract," Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in the Jan. 15 decision.
The Ombudsman added that Garcia violated the Administrative Code of 1987 and the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines because the certification of available funds was issued only after she entered the second contract with Supreme ABF.
The dismissal order against Garcia disqualifies her from holding public office and forfeits her retirement benefits, the Ombudsman said.
The office has directed that a copy of the decision be furnished to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for appropriate action, but the latter has also refused to enforce the decision.