Sep 162016

Two congressmen facing trial for graft have opposed their suspension by the Sandiganbayan even as the House of Representatives has yet to implement the court’s order pending a decision by the rules committee.

In two separate motions for reconsideration filed before the Sixth Division, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte and Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr. asked for the reversal of the resolutions issued by the anti-graft court earlier this month ordering them to cease from performing their duties as public officials for 90 days.

Villafuerte argued that placing him under preventive suspension would be a “futile exercise” since the proceedings are already at an advanced stage and the prosecution’s presentation of evidence is nearly complete.

The lawmaker, who is accused of graft over the alleged anomalous P20-million fuel purchase he supposedly made as governor, said he cannot possibly intimidate witnesses or tamper with evidence by his continued stay in office since he no longer works in Camarines Sur but at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

“It is a matter of record that at no point has accused Villafuerte ever interfered with or impeded the proceedings of the instant case,” he motion read.

Villafuerte said the House also has “ample and plenary powers” to discipline its members for disorderly conduct, and should thus be a sufficient deterrent to counter allegation that he would commit further wrongdoing while in office.

For his part, Espino believes his suspension “is being used as a mere weapon” by his political enemies to unseat him and damage his reputation.

He described the court’s order for him to temporarily cease from performing his duties as “an instrument for politically motivated harassment and persecution.”

“Consequently, political rivals, such as in this case, aim to have at least a preventive suspension executed, particularly because it is a convenient way to ensure a disgraceful interruption of the official’s term with no actual hearing has yet to be done and no unlawful act yet to be proven with finality,” he said.

The former governor, who is accused of graft in connection with the alleged illegal black sand mining activity in Lingayen Gulf during his term as the governor of Pangasinan, said placing him under preventive suspension would also “unfairly” deny his constituents representation in Congress.

“Not only does this act of suspension deprive the accused his inherent right to attend sessions or meetings, but it also leaves his constituents with no representation in Congress, especially considering that these alleged charges are in connection with the accused’s previous position,” he motion read.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has yet to implement the suspension order by the Sandiganbayan, instead referring the matter to the committee on rules. Under the 1987 Constitution, the House has the power to sanction its own members.

Article VI, Section 16(3) states that the House “may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds of all its members, suspend or expel a member.” —KBK, GMA News

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