Defend House from Ombud

By: Vince F. Nonato February 14,2018 - 11:00 PM

Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia delivers a privilege speech urging the House of Representatives to defend its powers from encroachment by the Ombudsman..

Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia says her dismissal order from Ombudsman an encroachment on House powers

House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia lashed out at opposition lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman, who defended the Ombudsman’s order dismissing her from public office despite being an incumbent congresswoman.

In a strongly worded privilege speech, Garcia also called on her colleagues to defend the House from the Ombudsman’s encroachment, not necessarily her.

“Instead of allowing an illegal encroachment on what is constitutionally and statutorily the exclusive domain of this House, we all stand together. Not necessarily to stand with me, but to stand guard and stand true to this institution, the Constitution and the laws,” Garcia said.

Citing Section 16 (3) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, Garcia said only the House of Representatives has the “exclusive power to determine whether to discipline a member and two-thirds of this House to determine if the erring member should be suspended or removed from office,” she said.

The Cebu 3rd district representative stressed Section 13, Article XI of the Constitution made no “mention, nay even suggestion, that the Ombudsman has the power to discipline any member of Congress, much less to remove such members.”


At the same time, she noted Section 16(3) of Article VI of the Constitution provided for Congress to punish, suspend or expel its members for disorderly conduct, upon a vote of two-thirds of the chamber’s members.

Meanwhile, she said Section 21 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989 specifically exempted “members of Congress” from the government watchdog’s disciplinary authority.

“Does the Ombudsman law allow the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss or remove a member of the House of Representatives? The answer is no,” Garcia said. “Not just ‘no, there is no provision under the Ombudsman law.’ Rather, the answer is: ‘no, the Ombudsman law specifically and expressly prohibits it.’”

As of press time, the reclusive Ombudsman had kept silent about Alvarez’s pronouncement despite persistent requests for comment from reporters.


Garcia even took a swipe at Lagman, pointing out the opposition lawmaker even sat in the post-Marcos Eighth Congress that passed the Ombudsman Act.

She was reacting to Lagman’s disagreement with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s pronouncement that he would not enforce the Ombudsman’s Jan. 15 order.

“The Ombudsman law is clear with respect to the implementation of the decisions of the Ombudsman even pending motion for reconsideration,” Lagman said Tuesday.

Alvarez said the Constitution did not empower the Ombudsman to discipline congressmen, but Lagman said: “I don’t know what Constitution he is referring to.”

Garcia refused interpellation of her privilege speech, and Lagman told the plenary that he would just address her barbs next time since it was Valentine’s Day.


In Cebu City, Mayor Tomas Osmeña said Alvarez’s refusal to implement the Ombudsman’s order destroys the reputation of Congress.

“He is an embarrassment to the Congress and to the President,” Osmeña said.

“I think this is one case for the people to open their eyes. The action of the Speaker smears the reputation of Congress and of the President who put him there,” he added.

While admitting that Alvarez had a point in saying only the House can discipline its members, he said the Speaker was focusing on technical matters “but he does not have the moral decency.”

“He did not defend the issue of graft and corruption,” he said.

Osmeña also said Alvarez’s refusal to implement Garcia’s dismissal order “favored graft because he did not bother to defend Gwen. What’s there to defend? She bought property under water.”

Questions surrounding the validity of Alvarez’s decision not to implement the dismissal order were raised before the Department of the Interior and Local Government in Central Visayas.

But DILG Regional Director Rene Burdeos refused to comment.

“I won’t comment about it especially that the DILG has not received any order to implement it,” he said in a phone interview.


Garcia’s Jan. 15 dismissal for grave misconduct arose from a complaint initiated in 2013 by Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III over the allegedly unauthorized P24.47-million project to backfill a largely underwater property in Naga City when she was governor in April 2012.

The Ombudsman in January 2013 ordered Garcia’s dismissal in connection with the P98.93-million purchase of the same Naga City property in 2008. But, the Court of Appeals set aside the order in an April 2014 decision, as it applied the condonation doctrine, which deemed an official’s reelection to have forgiven his offenses committed during a previous term.

Although the administrative aspect of that case fell flat, the criminal case for graft and malversation regarding the 2008 land purchase of the Balili property remains pending before the Sandiganbayan Second Division.

After learning about the dismissal order, Garcia also announced that she “was seriously considering” running for governor in 2019 against Davide, who is now serving his second term.

“That’s her right. Let her run. Dili ta mahadlok (I’m not afraid),” was the reaction of Davide to Garcia’s challenge.

“That’s also her right to challenge me,” Davide added.

Garcia, in slamming her dismissal order, urged the Ombudsman to also act with “vigor and haste” on the complaint for criminal negligence she filed against Davide who refused to repair the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).

In response, Davide said he is just waiting for any notice from the Ombudsman.

“Before, I think two years back, she filed a case against me for criminal neglect. I have not received any notice from the Ombudsman to answer.

Nagpaabot lang gyud ko ana (I’m just waiting for that),” he stated. /, Morexette Marie B. Erram, Nestle L. Semilla and Ador Vincent Mayol

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TAGS: defend, House, Ombud, Ombudsman, powers
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