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Jan 26, 2010

G.R. No. 128055, April 18, 2001

  • Power of Sandiganbayan to suspend members of Congress vis-a-vis Congress' prerogative to discipline its own members: the former is not punitive, the latter is


A group of employees of the Commission of Immigration and Deportation (CID) filed a complaint for violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against then CID Commissioner Miriam Defensor-Santiago. It was alleged that petitioner, with evident bad faith and manifest partiality in the exercise of her official functions, approved the application for legalization of the stay of several disqualified aliens. The Sandiganbayan then issued an order for her suspension effective for 90 days.

  • Whether or not the Sandiganbayan has authority to decree a 90-day preventive suspension against a Senator of the Republic of the Philippines


The authority of the Sandiganbayan to order the preventive suspension of an incumbent public official charged with violation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 3019 has both legal and jurisprudential support. xxx

It would appear, indeed, to be a ministerial duty of the court to issue an order of suspension upon determination of the validity of the information filed before it. Once the information is found to be sufficient in form and substance, the court is bound to issue an order of suspension as a matter of course, and there seems to be “no ifs and buts about it.” Explaining the nature of the preventive suspension, the Court in the case of Bayot vs. Sandiganbayan observed:

“x x x It is not a penalty because it is not imposed as a result of judicial proceedings. In fact, if acquitted, the official concerned shall be entitled to reinstatement and to the salaries and benefits which he failed to receive during suspension.”

In issuing the preventive suspension of petitioner, the Sandiganbayan merely adhered to the clear an unequivocal mandate of the law, as well as the jurisprudence in which the Court has, more than once, upheld Sandiganbayan’s authority to decree the suspension of public officials and employees indicted before it.

Power of Sandiganbayan to Decree Preventive Suspension vis-à-vis Congress’ Prerogative to Discipline its Members

The pronouncement, upholding the validity of the information filed against petitioner, behooved Sandiganbayan to discharge its mandated duty to forthwith issue the order of preventive suspension.

The order of suspension prescribed by Republic Act No. 3019 is distinct from the power of Congress to discipline its own ranks under the Constitution which provides that each-
“x x x house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of all its Members, suspend or expel a Member. A penalty of suspension, when imposed, shall not exceed sixty days.”

The suspension contemplated in the above constitutional provision is a punitive measure that is imposed upon determination by the Senate or the house of Representatives, as the case may be, upon an erring member.

Republic Act No. 3019 does not exclude from its coverage the members of Congress and that, therefore, the Sandiganbayan did not err in thus decreeing the assailed preventive suspension order.


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