avoid a constitutional conflict House Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza yesterday asked Congress to seriously look into the power of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss a sitting member of Congress.
Atienza said it is very crucial for Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez to take a deeper look into the matter, pointing out that only the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) have the power to unseat their sitting members under the Constitution.
“Let Congress and the legal minds determine the investigative powers of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss sitting congressmen and senators. Does the Ombudsman possess the power to immediately eject an elected public official from office? That has to be resolved,” Atienza said.
Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, who chairs the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, said he expects that the judicial system will clear the name of Sen. Joel Villanueva who was ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman from public service for the alleged anomalous use of the “pork barrel” funds when he was still a congressman.
“We have faith in our judicial system, particularly the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court. In the end, the truth shall prevail,” said Tugna on Villanueva who represented Cibac party-list in the House of Representatives for three consecutive terms or from 2001 to 2010.
Tugna, a lawyer, explained that Villanueva is innocent and the “document bearing the name of Senator Joel Villanueva using a Buhay Party-List letterhead [in the questioned transaction] is false since then Congressman Joel Villanueva represented CIBAC Party-List and not Buhay Party-List.”
“In addition, the alleged CIBAC staff, Ronald Samonte, was never been a staff of CIBAC in Congress. And lastly, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) concluded that the signatures on the documents were forged. These are glaring facts that could have not warranted the finding of probable cause against Senator Joel Villanueva,” said Tugna.
Earlier, Villanueva said he was hurt and disheartened by the Ombudsman’s order dismissing him from public service, but hoping that the truth would come out and that justice would prevail in his favor.
Villanueva lamented that the alleged pork barrel scam could not be addressed by a “witch hunt.”
He reiterated that he did not receive the pork barrel funds, noting that when he was a congressman, he belonged to the minority group in the House of Representatives and one of those who initiated the impeachment complaint against then President and now Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga.
Last Monday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered Villanueva’s dismissal after she found him guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service for the allegedly anomalous use of P10-million pork barrel allocation as a congressman.
The senator said he already filed a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman and would now leave it to Pimentel to act on the Ombudsman’s order.