MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang said only the House of Representatives has the power to remove Cebu 3rd district Representative Gwen Garcia, who has been ordered dismissed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
“While we respect the findings of the Ombudsman based on the merits of the case, only Congress may suspend or remove its members based on the former’s anti-graft and corruption rulings,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday, February 13. “She (Morales) cannot arrogate this power of Congress.”
Roque, a former congressman, explained that only the House of Representatives convened in plenary and by a two-thirds vote, can drop Garcia from its rolls.
“It is also unfortunate that the decision of the Ombudsman was released at a time when such actions could be given political color,” Roque said. “While we leave the merits of the case to the Ombudsman, the release of the decision could have come at a more circumspect time.”
Roque, at a press conference in Tabuk, Kalinga, admitted he could not be impartial in reacting to the issue of Garcia, his “BFF (best friend forever).” Nevertheless, he stressed, “naninindigan po ako na sa ating Saligang Batas na tanging Kongreso lang ang pupuwede magdisiplina sa kanyang mga miyembro (I stand with the Constitution that only Congress can discipline its members).”
He also noted that both chambers of the Congress have the same view regarding the expulsion of its members.
Roque said the Ombudsman is free to go to the Supreme Court.
Garcia was dismissed over an unauthorized, PHP24.47-million transaction on a Balili property in Cebu when she was governor of the province in 2012.
The Ombudsman also ordered her perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of her retirement benefits.
Garcia earlier questioned the timing of the dismissal order.
“It does seem as though the Ombudsman has singled me out on an act that was done when I was still governor several years ago and you rather wonder whether this was purposefully done precisely because, as you saw, I am very active in this impeachment hearing against Chief Justice Sereno,” Garcia told reporters.