Pimentel: 'No urgency' to act on dismissal order vs Villanueva

MANILA, Philippines – Despite an Ombudsman order, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said there is “no urgency” to act on the dismissal of Senator Joel Villanueva for the alleged misuse of his pork barrel funds as congressman in 2008.

Pimentel, who received the order on November 2, said the Senate could not act yet as it has to wait for the decision on the motion for reconsideration filed by Villanueva. The order asks the Senate President to submit a duly accomplished compliance report within 30 days.

So ano lang po ito...wala pang [desisyon sa] motion for reconsideration (So this is just...there is still no decision on the motion for reconsideration). There is no urgency really to address terminating a sitting senator,” Pimentel told reporters on Monday, November 14.

November 2, binigyan akong kopya ng desisyon. Hindi kailangan bilisan ito.(November 2, I was given a copy of the decision. We do not need to expedite this.) I have 30 days to file compliance report. After November 2, I was informed he filed a motion for reconsideration. We have to respect the procedure. Let them (Ombudsman) first resolve the pending incident before we can say there is already a final decision,” Pimentel said.

The Senate leader said they would back off the case to allow Villanueva to handle it first: “Hands off na tayo sa case (We're hands off on the case). Let us allow Senator Joel Villanueva to defend himself.”

Pimentel is set to refer the order to the Senate committee on rules chaired by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III. This is the same route the chamber took when the Sandiganbayan ordered the preventive suspension of Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito for alleged misuse of funds when he was San Juan City representative.

Ejercito, however, eventually voluntarily served his suspension starting November 8.

“Imagine, even just the suspension of a senator we referred to the rules committee. How much more a possible termination of senator? Let's refer it to the rules [committee],” Pimentel said.

Aside from ordering Villanueva's dismissal, the Ombudsman will charge the senator before the Sandiganbayan for "two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), one count each for Malversation of Public Funds and Malversation thru Falsification of Public Documents."

Villanueva denied the allegations, saying it is an "old case."

"In any case, my faith is strong in the judicial system and in time, justice will be served," he said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.