Drilon: No automatic suspension for lawmakers
MANILA, Philippines - Any disciplinary action that would be taken on senators who may be charged in relation to the pork barrel scam would only come from the Senate.
Senate President Franklin Drilon stressed this yesterday as he noted the number of senators who were reportedly included in the list to be charged for plunder along with businesswoman Janet Lim- Napoles over the pork barrel scam.
At least three senators have repeatedly been mentioned as being involved in the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the official name of the pork barrel fund.
Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and their staff were reportedly included in a private complaint filed before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
President Aquino also revealed the first charges could be filed as early as Friday against Napoles and other government officials.
Drilon said there is a process that must be followed in the filing of criminal charges against an individual and at this point, it is not even at the preliminary investigation stage.
He said the NBI would have to present the results of its investigation before the Office of the Ombudsman, which would then review the information and determine if there is sufficient evidence to merit the filing of charges against the concerned individuals.
“If the ombudsman thinks the evidence is sufficient, that is the time that it would ask for the reply (of the respondents). This is the preliminary investigation stage,” Drilon said.
Even if there are senators charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense, Drilon said they would not be automatically suspended.
“The Constitution provides that the matter of disciplining senators is within the ambit of the Senate and not the courts,” Drilon pointed out.
“Let us not forget that until the accused is proven guilty, under our law, he is innocent until proven guilty. The mere fact that one is charged in court doesn’t mean that he should be suspended,” he added.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago earlier said any senator charged with plunder is automatically suspended from office under the Anti-Plunder Act of 1991.