House removes Eugene de Vera as ABS party-list congressman

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The House of Representatives kicked out Eugene de Vera as representative of the Arts, Business, and Science Professionals (ABS) party on Monday, November 19.

This comes after ABS approved a board resolution dated September 7 expelling De Vera as its member. Majority Leader Rolando Andaya informed the plenary on Monday that the House leadership had received a letter informing them about De Vera's expulsion.

The board resolution was signed by ABS president Catalina Leonen Pizarro, who already filed a quo warranto petition against De Vera before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).

Andaya said they also received from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc a resolution saying De Vera is within the House's jurisdiction and covered by its rules and regulations. The poll body issued the resolution as a reply to Pizarro and Andaya in relation to ABS' expulsion of De Vera.

Andaya then instructed the House secretary-general to remove De Vera's name from the roll of members and replace him with ABS' second nominee, Ulysses Garces.

But both De Vera himself and LPG Marketers Association Representative Arnel Ty objected to Andaya's order.

De Vera, who tagged the manner of his removal as "unconstitutional," cited Section 4, Rule II of the House rules, which states that when the validity of the proclamation of a duly elected lawmaker is questioned, he or she will remain a House member pending "final and executory judgment on or resolution of the question over the proclamation of the member by the appropriate judicial or administrative bodies." 

"Your honor, I am a sitting member of this august chamber. And what is being questioned against me is being a bona fide member of my ABS [party]. So jurisdiction is within the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. A mere letter cannot be a basis [to unseat] me," said De Vera.

He added that he has already filed his comment on the quo warranto case that he is facing.

But Andaya did not heed De Vera's arguments and merely repeated his order to the secretary-general.

"This is not my personal liking, but that is the situation we have on hand. We have to request that his name be dropped from the roll. It is a ministerial duty, Mr Speaker," said Andaya.

Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay Jr, who was presiding over the session, then repeated Andaya's request to the secretary-general. Pichay immediately adjourned the session, giving De Vera no time to further oppose the case.

Why did the ABS party expel De Vera? ABS listed 4 reasons for removing De Vera as its member:

Why does De Vera believe his removal is illegal? Citing jurisprudence from the Lico vs Comelec case, De Vera said only the HRET has jurisdiction to determine whether or not a congressman is a bona fide member of the party he is representing in the House.

"That's unconstitutional, unconstitutional, illegal, and it is bordering on a criminal act. You know why? Only the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal has the jurisdiction to determine if a sitting congressman, particular to that of a party-list congressman, is qualified or not," said De Vera.

He said there are only two modes by which a sitting congressman may be removed:

"The first one, if it's with regards to disorderly behavior, it would be referred to the committee on ethics. A complaint will be filed with the committee on ethics, then hearings would be conducted. After the hearings would be conducted, it would be brought before the plenary. Then a conviction for expulsion or suspension of not more than 6 months would require two-thirds of votes of all members of the House of Representatives," said De Vera.

"The other mode of unseating a congressman is to file a quo warranto case as far as the qualification is concerned before the HRET. The HRET is the sole judge [of] all election returns and qualification cases against sitting congressmen," he added.

De Vera's sentiments are similar to the views of election lawyer Emil Marañon III concerning the case of former lawmaker Harry Roque. Marañon wrote on Rappler why the Kabayan party could not just remove Roque as congressman.

Marañon said the 1987 Constitution lists two ways by which to remove a congressman. Article VI, Section 16.1.3 says a congressman may be expelled with the concurrence of two-thirds of all House members, while Article VI, Section 17 states a lawmaker may be removed by the HRET either through an election protest or quo warranto proceeding. – Rappler.com

 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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