OPPOSITION Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman yesterday said Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez should simply implement the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division’s twin orders for the 90-day preventive suspension of Reps. Amado Espino of Pangasinan and LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur.
Lagman, a stalwart of the Liberal Party (LP) in the opposition bloc, took exception to the position taken by Alvarez and House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas that the orders must be brought to the plenary through the committee on rules for appropriate action by the 293-strong House of Representatives.
“Ang order naman ay directed to the leadership of the House,” Lagman, one of the leaders of the so-called Legitimate 8 or the genuine minority bloc, told Rowena Salvacion’s Buena Manong Balita radio morning program over dzBB yesterday, stressing Alvarez should not refer the two separate orders to the House committee on rules chaired by Fariñas and later submitted to the plenary.
Before Villafuerte’s suspension was made public Friday, Alvarez earlier assured on the same day that he will refer the case of Espino to the Fariñas’ panel as guaranteed by the House rules.
Asked what will happen if Alvarez ignores the order, Lagman said the Sandiganbayan can cite him in contempt.
“Kung hindi susundin ng Mababang Kapulungan ay wala pang precedent d’yan. Baka i-declare in contempt ‘yung Speaker at ‘yung Majority Leader o ‘yung members ng rules committee. Mayroong karapatan na mag-declare ng contempt ang husgado. ‘Yung tinatawag na contempt of court sapagkat hindi sinunod ‘yung utos ng husgado,” Lagman explained.
Despite this, Lagman said he believes that the House leadership will respect the twin orders of Sandiganbayan which past Congress reportedly failed to observe on their members concerned that were ordered to be suspended by the anti-graft court.
“Well, baka ngayon makikita mo na (implemented),” Lagman said.
“Palagay ko naman hindi (clash between House and Sandiganbayan). Palagay ko naman pag-aaralang mabuti ng leadership of the House at palagay ko naman ay susundin nila ang judicial process,” Lagman said.
He also said that the orders of Sandiganbayan for the suspension of Espino and Villafuerte are part of judicial process and do not mean that they are being punished.
“Ito naman ay hindi penalty, suspension ‘to. Ito naman ay ginagawa sa lahat ng akusado whether members of Congress o opisyal ng ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno. So we should be able to enforce the judicial process equally to all,” Lagman explained.
Last week, the Sandiganbayan ordered the suspension of Espino and Villafuerte due to separate graft cases filed against them.
The anti-graft division ordered the suspension of Espino in connection with his two counts of graft that stemmed from his alleged involvement in illegal black sand mining in his province while he was still the governor.
In the case of Villafuerte, he was ordered suspended in connection with his graft case that stemmed from P20-million fuel purchase in 2010 allegedly without proper bidding.