Press Release
September 2, 2014

Drilon: Senate will follow law on suspension order against colleagues

The Sandiganbayan's order of suspension against Senator Jinggoy Estrada has been received by the Office of the Senate President this afternoon, announced Senate President Franklin M. Drilon.

"As with the case of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, we will implement the order. We have no recourse but to implement it," said Drilon.

"The Senate is left with no recourse but to implement the order immediately in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Santiago v. Sadiganbayan in 2001, where the SC categorically held that the Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act does not exclude from its coverage the members of Congress, hence a Senator may be preventively suspended," Drilon, a lawyer and former justice secretary, explained.

"There is a clear legal precedent for following the implementation of the suspension order. The Senate has a responsibility to follow the law, and we will follow it," said Drilon.

The Senate leader said that the primary legal basis for the implementation of Senator Enrile's suspension was the said Supreme Court ruling promulgated in April 2001.

It can be recalled that in January 25, 1996, the Sandiganbayan ordered the suspension of Senator Santiago from her position as the Senator of the Republic of the Philippines.

Drilon recalled that upon receipt of the Resolution, then Senate President Ernest Maceda reported the same to the plenary and such was referred to the Committees on Rules and Ethics and Privileges.

Through Committee Report No. 321, the Committees concluded that the Senate does not have the power or authority to suspend any Member, except for disorderly behavior and, only with the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all its Members, for a period not exceeding sixty days.

The Committee further argued that the Sandiganbayan cannot order the Senate to implement the suspension of a Senator without violating the Separation of Powers and that the Sandiganbayan Resolution per se is not sufficient to warrant the suspension by the chamber of Senator Santiago.

However, five years later, the Supreme Court in April 2001 upheld the power of the Sandiganbayan to suspend Santiago, Drilon said.

Ciiting the SC ruling, Drilon thus clarified that the order of the Sandiganbayan to suspend Senators Enrile and Estrada is distinct from the Constitutional power of Congress to discipline its members.

"The order of suspension prescribed by Republic Act No. 3019 is distinct from the power of Congress to discipline its own ranks under the Constitution which 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," said Drilon citing the SC ruling.

"There is no violation of the separation of powers, and that the Sandiganbayan did not undermine the authority of the Senate to discipline its members because the Constitutional provision deals with suspension as a punitive penalty," the SC ruling said.

"The ruling said that the suspension contemplated in the above constitutional provision is a punitive measure that is imposed upon determination by the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, upon an erring member," pointed out Drilon.

On the other hand, the Sandiganbayan's order is a preventive suspension based on the plunder law: "Preventive Suspension is a remedial measure that operates under closely-controlled conditions and gives a premium to the protection of the service rather than to the interests of the individual office holder," concluded Drilon, citing the SC ruling.

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