Senator asks Ombudsman to resign

March 2, 2011

Kimberly Jane Tan
March 2, 2011

At least one senator has called on embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to resign from her post before the House of Representatives impeaches her.

“The Ombudsman should have the decency and just resign from office,” said Sen. Francis Pangilinan in a statement Wednesday. “She has tarnished the image and reputation of the office she holds. She has damaged the institution by clinging to it like a leech.”

He said Gutierrez’s possible impeachment trial at the Senate will only bring the legislative process to a “standstill.”

“The legislative agenda of this administration will face delays if and when the Senate trial goes underway. It would be best for the Ombudsman as an institution, for the nation and for all of us, if she just resigns and spares the nation the spectacle of a public trial,” Pangilinan said.

“The once highly regarded, respected, and feared Office of the Ombudsman is no more. What we have is an office that is a complete and total embarrassment to public office and service. For the sake of decency in public office she should just get out or be kicked out,” he added.

As of posting time, the committee on justice at the House of Representatives is deliberating on the two impeachment complaints filed against Gutierrez, who is accused of betraying public trust when she allegedly shielded former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Arroyo family from prosecution.

Gutierrez’s lawyer Anacleto Diaz on Wednesday said they are ready to face the the deliberations at the House.

Senate President Juan Ponce, meanwhile, refused to comment on the issue, saying that the matter may eventually be elevated to the Senate.

“Hindi ako makapagsasalita diyan dahil kami ang magiging hukom. Hintayin namin kung darating sa amin yun. Saka na lang namin haharapin (I can’t comment on that because we will be the judges in the end. We’ll just wait if that will reach us, that’s when we will address the issue),” he said in an interview.

Sen. Ralph Recto likewise said that it is “difficult” to comment on the issue before the case reaches the Senate because he might be accused of being biased.

“I’d rather refrain from making any comment and wait if at all it comes here and study the merits of the case and be fair,” he said in a separate interview.

He, however, agreed with Pangilinan that the impeachment will disrupt their legislative duties, but quickly added that they are bound to do it as it is part of their Constitutional mandate.

“It’s the Constitutional duty for us na pag umabot dito (that when the impeachment reaches us), we must hear the case and I will sit as the judge,” he said.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan, for his part, said resignation is just an “option” that Gutierrez can take. He said he will neither support nor oppose any call for her to do so.

“That is the judgment call of Ombusdsman Gutierrez, if she wants to spare the country the agony of a political proceeding,” he told GMA News Online in a phone interview. He likewise said that he will still have to study the matter further once the matter reaches their chamber.

The impeachment process

Section 3, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution says that the House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all impeachment cases, while the Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all the cases.

It says that a verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution or endorsement by any member of the House.

The complaint shall be referred to the proper House committee, which shall conduct a hearing on the issue and by majority vote, submit a report and a resolution to the House for consideration within 60 days.

The Constitution says that a vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House of Representatives shall be necessary to either affirm or override a resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the committee. If an affirmative vote is cast, the Senate shall proceed with the impeachment proceedings.

According to the Constitution, judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office. However, it says that the party convicted shall still be liable and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment, according to law. No person shall likewise be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all members of the Senate.

When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the chief justice of the Supreme Court shall preside.

In the case of Gutierrez, Sen. Francis Escudero told GMA News Online that Enrile will be the one to preside over the proceedings.

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