Belmonte to court: Arroyo suspension in House agenda
In a compliance paper made public Friday, October 3, Belmonte informed the Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division of the House position on the suspension order on Arroyo dated June 26 and transmitted to the House on July 1.
Belmonte said House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales has been instructed to include in the chamber's order of business whether to implement the 90-day suspension of Arroyo, in relation to graft charges stemming from a botched government deal with Chinese firm ZTE during her term.
"Consistent with the rules and procedures of the House of Representatives, an order from a court or judicial tribunal is transmitted to the plenary for its collective action," read the paper.
Belmonte gave the formal instruction to Gonzales only on the evening of September 22, a day before he submitted his compliance paper to court, and 4 days before lawmakers went on a 3-week congressional break.
Congress resumes session on October 20.
Arroyo is detained at the state-run Veterans Medical Memorial Center over a separate plunder case. She was initially charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman over the NBN-ZTE deal but has been downgraded to graft.
Inaction for 3 months?
The House has not implemented the suspension order against Arroyo since its transmittal to Belmonte's office on July 1, prompting the court to demand an explanation from him on September 8. (READ: Court asks House Speaker: Have you suspended Arroyo?)
Belmonte explained that when he received the initial order, he was studying precedents on the suspension of House members. In previous cases, the chamber had argued that only the House can suspend its own members. (READ: Will the House suspend Gloria Arroyo? Here are precedents)
Belmonte received a second notice directing him to implement Arroyo's suspension on September 11.
With Arroyo no longer appealing the court resolution, the Sandiganbayan maintained in its notice to Belmonte that the suspension order is final. But on September 16, Belmonte asked the court for a certificate of finality.
His actions run counter to the compliance papers transmitted by Senate President Franklin Drilon to the Sandiganbayan, indicating prompt implementation of the suspension orders against 3 opposition senators indicted of plunder over the pork barrel scam.
Drilon implemented the suspensions, despite the argument of suspended Senator Juan Ponce Enrile that he can only be suspended with a two-thirds concurrence of Senate members. (READ: Senate should have power to suspend Enrile – lawyer)
Drilon and Belmonte are both stalwarts of the ruling Liberal Party. – Rappler.com