MANILA, Philippines - The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan reiterated Wednesday calls for Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to take a leave of absence as she goes on trial in the Senate for betrayal of public trust.
“Ombudsman Gutierrez faces six articles of impeachment which will be tried four days a week. The almost daily hearings alone should require the undivided attention of the Ombudsman. She also faces several serious charges. She will also be asked to appear before the Senate. It would be best if she takes a leave of absence to focus on the trial,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr, who is also an impeachment complainant.
“So far she has not entered any detailed and substantial answer to the allegations in the impeachment complaint. The so-called answer she submitted to the House justice committee was a general denial. She has her work cut out for her, even before the trial begins,” Reyes said.
Bayan acknowledged though that the law does not require Gutierrez, only the second official to face an impeachment trial, to take a leave of absence.
The trial will begin in May this year with the regular hearings starting 2 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.
“She is not required to take a leave but she should seriously consider it. We doubt she can focus on anything else other than her defense. Her job and office will be affected,” Reyes said.
Gutierrez earlier said she is more than ready to face the trial of her life before the Senate.
From the very beginning, she did not anymore expect any fair treatment from the Justice committee that sponsored the impeachment complaints before the plenary.
“Even though I felt the proceedings were being railroaded in violation of my right, I still gave the House of Representatives the benefit of the doubt that they will discard partisan politics,” she said.
She added, however, that she will leave her fate to the senator-judges who will have to take their oath that they will decide based on the strength or weakness of available evidence. At least 16 senators are needed to vote for her ouster from office.
Despite all these, Gutierrez reiterated she will continue working and will not take a leave of office.
“I will continue discharging my duty, the case will not be a hindrance,” she stressed.
Reyes called on Gutierrez to stop playing the victim and instead address the allegations against her.
“She claims she’s the victim of dark politics. The real victims of dark politics are the Filipino people who were denied justice and accountability during the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Dark politics ruled everyday under GMA and Merci,” he said.
Bayan’s impeachment complaint resulted in the first three articles of impeachment which are: the Ombudsman’s inaction on the fertilizer fund scam, inaction on the Euro generals scandal and the whitewash of the anomalous Mega Pacific deal.
Gutierrez is also being accused of bungling the NBN-ZTE case, inaction on the case of Navy Ensign Philip Pestano and having a low conviction rate.