Palace to Ombudsman: Only Congress can expel Garcia

MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday said it respects the decision of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to dismiss Cebu 3rd District Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia for grave misconduct but reminded her that only the House of Representatives had the power to suspend her.

“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 Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“She (Morales) cannot arrogate this power of Congress,” he added.

Roque, a former congressman himself, pointed out that only the House of Representatives convened in plenary and by a two-thirds vote, can expel Garcia from its rolls.

He, meanwhile, also described the timing of the Ombudsman to release the dismissal order as “unfortunate” and could have been released at a more “circumspect” time.

“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,” he added.


Roque, in a press conference in Tabuk, Kalinga, said he considers Garcia as his “best friend forever” and could not be impartial in reacting to the issue.

However, he said that the Constitution was clear that only the Congress could expel its members.

“Gwen Garcia and I are very close. So I cannot be impartial as to Congresswoman Gwen Garcia, I consider her as my best friend forever at 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),” Roque said.

He also noted that both chambers of the Congress have the same view regarding the expulsion of its members.

“Congress, either house or senate has taken the same view that under the Constitution the Ombudsman cannot order House or Congress to do as it wishes,” Roque said.

He further said that the Ombudsman was free to go to the Supreme Court and will not be prevented.

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 is also penalizing Garcia with perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

Garcia earlier questioned the timing of the dismissal order considering that she is “very active” in the impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“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 in an ambush interview on Monday.

Garcia said she will leave it to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to decide on what action to take regarding the dismissal order.