HOUSE Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia emphasized on Wednesday that the Office of the Ombudsman could not order her dismissal because it does not have the power to discipline members of Congress.
Garcia, in her privilege speech, took a swipe at Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who implied that the ombudsman’s order should be enforced right away.
The representative from Cebu Province’s third district agreed with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that the House of Representatives has the sole disciplinary authority over its members.
She cited Article 6, Section 16, paragraph 3 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “each 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.”
“What the Honorable Speaker meant, in case his meaning was not clear to some, is that the only instance where the removal of any member of this House of Representatives is allowed under the Constitution is by the decision of two-thirds of this House of Representatives,” Garcia said.
She said: “Not an order of the Ombudsman but by two-thirds votes of all the members of the independent House of Representatives.”
Republic Act 6770 or The Ombudsman Act also prohibits any disciplinary action on members of Congress by the anti-graft office, Garcia said.
She cited Section 12 of the law, which states that the ombudsman shall have disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials of the government and its instrumentalities “except over officials who may be removed only by impeachment or over members of Congress or the Judiciary.”
“This is how the Eighth Congress, of which I believe Representative Lagman was a member, defined the disciplinary authority of the Ombudsman,” Garcia said.
The ombudsman ordered Garcia’s dismissal for grave misconduct over the contract she signed in 2012 for the supply of backfilling materials for the former Balili property in the City of Naga, Cebu. She was governor then.
According to the Ombudsman, Garcia had no authority from the Provincial Board when she entered into contracts in 2012 with ABF Construction for the supply of those materials, and was guilty of grave misconduct.
In a separate venue, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña criticized Alvarez’s decision not to implement the Office of the Ombudsman’s order to dismiss Garcia.
Osmeña said the action of the speaker “smears the reputation of Congress and the President.”
“He uses legal mumbo-jumbo to say why he will not implement the order but he has the discretion and his discretion favors graft,” Osmeña said.
Cebu City Councilor Raymond Garcia said the mayor should be consistent on his stand.
Garcia, Gwen’s nephew, recalled that when Cebu City South District Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa was dismissed in 2014, that order wasn’t imposed either.
“Why is he now criticizing Speaker Alvarez for non-implementation of the dismissal order against Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia when the same thing happened to Abellanosa? He was also dismissed and the Speaker did not act. The mayor has double standards; if it’s not in his favor, he will complain, but if it’s in his favor, he is silent,” Councilor Garcia said. (Keith Calayag of SunStar Philippines, RVC & JKV of SunStar Cebu)