April 29, 2011
MANILA, Philippines – A known ally of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday criticized Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez for quitting her post and asked if anything was demanded in return for her resignation.
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman aired his suspicions about Gutierrez’s resignation, which preempted her impeachment trial in the Senate. “The bigger question is what quid pro quo induced the Ombudsman to resign and who pressured her to resign?” he said in a statement.
“One who retreats from a good fight does not deserve to be defended or supported. A resignation in the face of an impending impeachment trial, albeit shakily anchored, is not an honorable exit as it is an admission of culpability,” he added.
Lagman said the Ombudsman’s resignation pre-terminates the impeachment proceedings but does not spare Gutierrez from criminal prosecution for malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance in office.
He added that while the resignation will now allow the Senate to fully concentrate on its legislative functions, it has “deprived history and jurisprudence the precedence of a full-blown trial of an impeachable official.”
Gutierrez submitted her resignation letter to President Aquino Friday morning, citing continuous pressure on her family by anti-Arroyo critics.
News of the Ombudsman’s resignation came less than a week before Congress resumes sessions. Gutierrez has been impeached by the House of Representatives through an overwhelming 212-46 vote and was scheduled to face an impeachment trial before the Senate.
She is accused of protecting former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies from prosecution.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis Escudero and Kiko Pangilinan welcomed the news of Gutierrez’s resignation, saying that it would save the country from a long and arduous impeachment process.
Pangilinan, who has linked the Ombudsman with the series of corruption scandals that hounded the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said, the resignation is just one small step in the fight against corruption.
“We are slowly but surely chipping away from the armor of invincibility surrounding GMA. Now that Merci is out of the way, GMA’s fortress will come tumbling down, and we should use this as an opportunity to make the Arroyo administration pay for its corrupt, twisted ways.
He continued: “Her resignation does not prevent the state from pursuing criminal cases should there be sufficient grounds to do so.”
Lawmakers, some of them would be members of the team that would have prosecuted her at the Senate impeachment court, welcomed the Ombudsman’s resignation.
The lawmakers texted House media their reactions.
Dasmarinas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said, “ Ombudsman Gutierrez’s decision to voluntarily vacate her position is a welcome development. This will now give PNoy a free hand in revitalizing the Office of the Ombudsman. We must stress that PNoy was elected in a big way on account of his pledge to fight widespread corruption. PNoy needs all the support wecan give him, including an Ombudsman that he (PNoy) can personally trust & count on. Gutierrez’s resignation will also allow our Senators & the members of the House prosecution panel to focus on their legislative work.”
Two other lawmakers believe this paves the way for going after the former president.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino said, “The resignation of Ombudsman Gutierrez as reported in media is a victory for the Filipino people. It is a victory as well for the complainants and proponents of the impeachment complaint and a vindication of our efforts to hold Gutierrez accountable for betraying the public trust. This is the best option for her considering she would not have survived the trial given the strength of the evidence. With her out of the way, we now shift our sights to GMA. We shall ask the DOJ to immediately act on the complaint we filed against GMA in June last year for referral to the new Ombudsman for proper action.”
Akbayan Rep. Arlene Bag-ao: “Merci’s resignation only shows that the allegations against her are true. It is up to the Senate to decide on the fate of the impeachment. We see Merci’s resignation as a maneuver to stop the evidence agaisnt her from being presented to the public especially those that involve GMA. We will pursue cases against Merci and GMA is definitely next.”
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