Ombudsman Merci resigns, 10 days before Senate trial

April 28, 2011

Kimberly Jane Tan
April 29, 2011

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has submitted her letter of resignation to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, 10 days before her Senate impeachment trial was set to begin on May 9, reliable sources from both camps said Friday.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said Gutierrez personally handed her resignation letter to Aquino “about an hour ago,” when GMA News Online called him up at around noon on Friday.

“Nasabihan lang ako na nag-file na siya ng resignation (I was just told that she has filed her resignation),” he said. He refused to identify the person who informed him, describing the source only as someone from the Palace.

“Marami na kami actually sinabihan about this. Kalat na rin by this time (Many of us have been informed about this. The news has spread by this time),” he added.

The report was likewise confirmed by a source close to Gutierrez, who was scheduled to retire in December 2012.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Senator Francis Pangilinan on Friday said Gutierrez’s resignation has effectively made her impeachment case before Congress moot and academic.

“A resigned official can no longer be removed by impeachment. Her resignation however does not prevent the state from pursuing criminal cases should there be sufficient grounds to do so,” he said.

Pangilinan had earlier asked Gutierrez to resign even before the impeachment proceedings reach the Senate because the trial will only bring the legislative process to a “standstill”.

Senators and the congressmen who would be prosecuting Gutierrez had been preparing for a trial which was expected to last for several months and would have revisited corruption cases against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The House of Representatives impeached Gutierrez in March this year, elevating the case into a Senate trial.

Waiting for Merci

The Office of the Ombudsman is expected to hold a press conference at 2:00 p.m. on Friday while the Palace is expected to hold a separate news briefing at 3:00 p.m., both reportedly regarding Gutierrez’s resignation.

However, officials at the Office of the Ombudsman are tight-lipped on what the press conference will be about or who will be facing the media

Hinting at resignation?

In her most recent column in Business Mirror on Friday, a solemn Gutierrez admitted that resignation seemed to be the best of “few options available” to her.

“It is supposedly the path that would lead me toward a win-win solution to the multitude of problems I face today. That is resignation,” she said.

She explained that if she persists in fighting the charges leveled against her and eventually lose, she would not only lose her retirement benefits but also the opportunity to serve government again.

“(I) will also reap the shame of being the first Ombudsman to have been forcibly removed from office,” she added.

She also compared herself to one of “those early disciples of Jesus.”

“There is much darkness for me now,” the besieged Ombudsman acknowledged. “In a few weeks the Senate trial on my impeachment will begin. Uncertainties all around me loom and at times they seem to carry me away.”

Pleased over resignation

Lawyer Harry Roque, in a statement on the reported resignation of Gutierrez, said, “As the first to call for impeachment of Gutierrez, I am happy she spared the nation from the spectacle and expense of a trial.”

“I hope the President will appoint an Ombudsman who will make the office relevant in upholding public accounatibility. I hope the new Ombudsman will also heed the Alston Report and embrace the challenge for the Ombudsman to also deal with human rights violations,” Roque said.

Articles of impeachment

The following are the articles of impeachment against Gutierrez:

(1) the Office of the Ombudsman has performed dismally as shown by the low conviction rate during her term;

(2) the unreasonable failure to take prompt and immediate action on complaints filed against various public officials, including Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo regarding the controversial NBN-ZTE broadband project;

(3) the inexcusable delay of the Ombudsman in conducting and concluding its investigation into the wrongful death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine navy vessel;

(4) inaction on the Fertilizer Fund Scam;

(5) inaction on the Mega Pacific deal on the purchase of voting machines; and

(6) inaction on the “Euro Generals” issue. – with Mark D. Merueñas, Howie Severino, MRT/VVP/YA, GMA News

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