Can the ombudsman dismiss a re-elected legislator?
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - February 21, 2018 - 12:00am

What can the Ombudsman do if Speaker Alvarez continues to refuse to implement the Ombudsman's decision to dismiss Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia? My answer is 'nothing.' This is not without any precedent in our legal system. Remember the case of Senator Joel Villanueva?

It appears Garcia is taking the legal position that she could no longer be dismissed over the Balili property because of the Aguinaldo Doctrine. Under said doctrine, whenever a public official has been reelected by the people after he was alleged to have committed a serious misconduct, the charges should be dropped because the people have already forgiven him. Well, the Ombudsman would perhaps remind her the Aguinaldo Doctrine has already been abandoned in the case of Morales versus Binay. To which she may reply that the abandonment of said doctrine applies only prospectively but not to her case.

The Garcias are a family of brilliant lawyers, many of whom are Bar topnotchers, and do not need any legal advice. But since 2019 is an election year, if I were the Garcias I would come up with a public statement explaining why she should not be held liable for that transaction, rather than peremptorily setting it aside, by invoking a technical defense as the Aguinaldo doctrine. The people, including her supporters, may want to know about her official version of the allegations against her, on the merits, not on the procedural issues, if it is legally allowed, under the principle of "sub judice." It is good Garcia is now aligned with the super majority, and that Speaker Bebot Alvarez declared he will not implement the Ombudsman's decision. But such a stance on the part of Alvarez borders on open defiance of a lawful order promulgated by a duly-constituted authority.

So can the Ombudsman validly remove a sitting member of the House? It is the position of many legal luminaries that members of the House can only be expelled by a vote of the House members themselves. This is pursuant to the principle of upholding the independence of the legislature. If Garcia were a mayor or governor there would be no legal objection to the decision. But on the other hand, the Ombudsman can insist that the charter of her office and its governing laws allow a sitting congressman to be suspended, fined, or dismissed.

The people want to hear and see indubitable facts and evidence that the transaction was above-board. Many of our voters now, especially the highly-idealistic and independent-thinking youth are using their brains and want to make enlightened decisions in the next years' polls. If Garcia is going to fight Governor Jun-Jun Davide (who is as clean as a whistle), she better give the Cebuanos a good story about Balili because even the most loyal Garcia followers in Dumanjug and Barili, even her own relatives, want to know the truth. Whether the Ombudsman can remove her or not does not seem important to the voters.

What matters most to them is: Is Garcia as clean as a whistle, like Davide? Let the people decide on that come 2019 elections.


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