MANILA -– As the Senate received the Sandiganbayan’s final decision on suspension order against Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, acting Senate minority leader Vicento Sotto III moved that the matter be discussed first by the Senate as a whole.
”We can approve the suspension but my point Mr. President is, I think, we should take it up,” Sotto manifested on the floor during Tuesday’s session.
Sotto made his manifestation in response to decision of Senate President Franklin Drilon to carry out last Monday a separate 90-day preventive suspension order of the Sandiganbayan against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile after the anti-graft court denied Enrile’s motion for reconsideration.
Sotto explained the Constitution explicitly provides that each House of the legislative branch shall have the power to “punish its members for disorderly behavior and with the concurrence of two-third vote of all its members, suspend or expel a member.”
”Is it not that the proper procedure is for the Senate, as a whole, should dispose of the matters appearing in the order of business. It is explicitly stated in the Rule 3 Section 3A (of Constitution),” he inquired.
Senate President Franklin Drilon conceded that the query and motion of Sotto be referred to the committee on rules “for disposition.”
Drilon, however, explained that the Sandiganbayan suspension order has been directed to the Senate President “and therefore I have no recourse but to implement the order of the Sandiganbayan.”
The Senate President further explained his decision was in accordance with the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in April 2001 on the case of Sen. Miriam Santiago versus Sandiganbayan based on Republic Act 3019, an anti-graft law.
”In that case, Sandiganbayan upheld the power of the court to suspend a member of Congress. And in that resolution, the issue of the power of the Congress to discipline its own members and the power of the court to impose a suspension under the anti-graft law was squarely raised in the SC,” he explained.
Drilon continued: “each House (of Congress) may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior and with the concurrence of 2/3 of all its members, suspend or expel a member. The penalty of suspension will impose shall not exceed 60 days.”
Enrile and Estrada along with Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. have been accused of receiving kickbacks from the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) they released to the bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.