Malacañang backs non-dismissal of House Deputy Speaker Garcia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) — Malacañang Palace on Tuesday supported the House of Representatives' move not to dismiss Deputy Speaker and Cebu 3rd district Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia.

"While we respect the findings of the Ombudsman based on the merits of the case, only Congress may suspend or remove its members based on the former's anti-graft and corruption rulings," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

In a press briefing, he said he considers Garcia his "best friend forever" and he cannot be impartial.

Roque also said the House would have to get a vote of two-thirds to expel her.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales released on Monday the order to dismiss Garcia over grave misconduct charges.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has since said he would not heed it.

Related: House Speaker: I will not implement Ombudsman's order to dismiss Garcia

The Ombudsman said Garcia allegedly entered into unauthorized contracts with Supreme ABF Construction during her term as Cebu governor in 2012.

Echoing Garcia's statement on Monday, Malacanang raised suspicion on the timing of the decision.

"It is also unfortunate that the decision of the Ombudsman was released at a time when such actions could be given political color," said Roque.

Garcia, meanwhile, said the Ombudsman was "singling [her] out."

"You wonder whether this was purposely done, precisely because I am very active in this impeachment hearing against Chief Justice [Maria Lourdes] Sereno," Garcia said Monday.

Sereno and Morales were appointees of former President Benigno Aquino III. Both have raised concerns and criticisms against the Duterte administration.

The Office of the Ombudsman in late January began an investigation into the alleged undeclared wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Palace then released a suspension order for Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, the official assigned to the case, but Morales refused to implement it.

The Ombudsman, as well as the Supreme Court, said the President does not have the jurisdiction to suspend a deputy Ombudsman.

Related: President has no disciplinary power over Deputy Ombudsman - SC Spokesman