The issue before us had long been settled by this Court in Ceferino S. Paredes, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan in G.R. No. 118354 (August 8, 1995). We ruled that the suspension provided for in the Anti-Graft law is mandatory and is of different nature and purpose. It is imposed by the court, not as a penalty, but as a precautionary measure resorted to upon the filing of a valid Information. Its purpose is to prevent the accused public officer from frustrating his prosecution by influencing witnesses or tampering with documentary evidence and from committing further acts of malfeasance while in office. It is thus an incident to the criminal proceedings before the court. On the other hand, the suspension or expulsion contemplated in the Constitution is a House-imposed sanction against its members. It is, therefore, a penalty for disorderly behavior to enforce discipline, maintain order in its proceedings, or vindicate its honor and integrity.
Just recently, in Miriam Defensor Santiago v. Sandiganbayan, et al., this Court en banc, through Justice Jose C. Vitug, held that the doctrine of separation of powers does not exclude the members of Congress from the mandate of R.A. 3019, thus:
“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. x x x.
“The suspension contemplated in the above constitutional provision is a punitive measure that is imposed upon a determination by the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, upon an erring member. x x x.
“The doctrine of separation of powers by itself may not be deemed to have effectively excluded members of Congress from Republic Act No. 3019 nor from its sanctions. The maxim simply recognizes that each of the three co-equal and independent, albeit coordinate, branches of the government – the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary – has exclusive prerogatives and cognizance within its own sphere of influence and effectively prevents one branch from unduly intruding into the internal affairs of either branch.” (Emphasis ours)
We note that the term of then Congressman Ceferino Paredes, Jr. expired on June 30, 1988. This rendered moot and academic the instant case.
[G.R. No. 130240. February 5, 2002]
DE VENECIA, JR., et al., vs. SANDIGANBAYAN (1st DIV.)