Enrile tells SC: Sandiganbayan cannot suspend legislators

SEN. Juan Ponce Enrile has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the Sandiganbayan from enforcing its suspension order against him pending the antigraft court’s ruling on the plunder and graft charges filed against him for his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork-barrel fund scam.

In a 47-page petition, Enrile insisted that neither the Sandiganbayan nor the Ombudsman has authority to impose disciplinary actions, such as preventive suspension, against members of Congress and the Judiciary.

Under the Ombudsman Act, Enrile noted that members of the Judiciary and Congress are not covered by its power to impose disciplinary actions owing to the doctrine of separation of powers.

He said only the Senate has the legal authority to order his preventive suspension from his office.

Furthermore, Enrile noted that Article VI, Section 16 (3) of the 1987 Constitution provides 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. A penalty of suspension, when imposed, shall not exceed 60 days.”

“Because members of Congress [including Enrile], the Judiciary and those to be impeached are excepted from the disciplinary authority of the Office of the Ombudsman, then the Office of the Ombudsman cannot initiate, or file a motion with the Sandiganbayan for the issuance of a preventive suspension as such measure or liability may be enforced only by the body having the legal disciplinary authority over the public officer concerned,” Enrile said.

“In the case of Enrile, the proper body with the legal disciplinary authority is the Senate,” he added.

Enrile noted that the offense of plunder, for which Enrile is indicted, is an offense alleged to have been committed “in relation to the office” of the public officer charge. Hence, the charge of plunder against Enrile is in relation to his public office as senator.

Enrile is specifically seeking the High Court’s isuance of a temporary restraining order or a status quo order, enjoining the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division from implementing the suspension order issued against him on July 24, 2014.

He pointed out that his suspension has no basis, since he has yet to be convicted of any crime.

“Enrile should enjoy full civil and political rights, and as the most senior member of the Senate, and, perhaps the entire Congress, who is also its minority leader and, therefore, is an ex officio member of all permanent committees of the Senate,” the petition stated.

Enrile has been charged along with Sens. Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., alleged pork-barrel scam mastermind businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and several other government officials for their alleged involvement in the P10-billion pork- barrel fund scam.

The plunder and graft charges were filed based on the recommendation of the Nationa Bureau of Investigation’s fact-finding team that conducted a probe on the scam.

The accused allegedly received multimillion-peso kickbacks from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations by endorsing PDAF-funded projects through fake non-governmental organizations put up by Napoles.

Enrile has been placed under hospital arrest so that his health condition can be constantly monitored, since he is already 90 years old.

Estrada and Revilla are also currently detained at the National Police Custodial Center.

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