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Santiago vs.

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

FACTS: 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. ISSUE:

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

RULING: 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 proceedin gs. 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 Sandiganbayans authority to decree the suspension of public officials and

employees indicted before it. Power of Sandiganbayan to Decree Preventive Suspension vis--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 eachx 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. xxx 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.

ESTRADA VS. ESCRITOR [492 SCRA 1 ; AM NO P-02-1651; 22 JUN 2006] Facts: Escritor is a court interpreter since 1999 in the RTC of Las Pinas City. She has been living with Quilapio, a man who is not her husband, for more than twenty five years and had a son with him as well. Respondents husband died a year before she entered into the judiciary while Quilapio is still legally married to another woman. Complainant Estrada requested the Judge of said RTC to investigate respondent. According to complainant, respondent should not be allowed to remain employed therein for it will appear as if the court allows such act. Respondent claims that their conjugal arrangement is permitted by her religion the Jehovahs Witnesses and the Watch Tower and the Bible Trace Society. They allegedly have a Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness under the approval of their congregation. Such a declaration is effective when legal impediments render it impossible for a couple to legalize their union. Issue: Whether or Not the State could penalize respondent for such conjugal arrangement. Held: No. The State could not penalize respondent for she is exercising her right to freedom of religion. The free exercise of religion is specifically articulated as one of the fundamental rights in our Constitution. As Jefferson put it, it is the most inalienable and sacred of human rights. The States interest in enforcing its prohibition cannot be merely abstract or symbolic in order to be sufficiently compelling to outweigh a free exercise claim. In the case at bar, the State has not evinced any concrete interest in enforcing the concubinage or bigamy charges against respondent or her partner. Thus the States interest only amounts to the symbolic preservation of

an unenforced prohibition. Furthermore, a distinction between public and secular morality and religious morality should be kept in mind. The jurisdiction of the Court extends only to public and secular morality. The Court further states that our Constitution adheres the benevolent neutrality approach that gives room for accommodation of religious exercises as required by the Free Exercise Clause. This benevolent neutrality could allow for accommodation of morality based on religion, provided it does not offend compelling state interests. Assuming arguendo that the OSG has proved a compelling state interest, it has to further demonstrate that the state has used the least intrusive means possible so that the free exercise is not infringed any more than necessary to achieve the legitimate goal of the state. Thus the conjugal arrangement cannot be penalized for it constitutes an exemption to the law based on her right to freedom of religion