GMA says Merci was under 'tremendous pressure'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 29 2011 09:52 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2011 07:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said on Friday that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned to spare her and her family of "further punishment."

In a statement issued through her spokesperson, Elena Bautista Horn, Mrs. Arroyo said she respects Gutierrez's decision to quit.

"All of us are aware of the tremendous pressures she was subjected to throughout her trial by publicity over the past year. We can imagine how this affected, not only the Ombudsman, but also her family, her friends, and the very office she holds. And so we respect her decision to spare them, and herself, further punishment," Bautista-Horn said.

Complainants in the impeachment case against Gutierrez have alleged that the Ombudsman has been protecting Mrs. Arroyo and former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo from prosecution for graft and corruption.

Gutierrez has belied the charge.

Last April 15, the Ombudsman ordered the filing of plunder charges against former Agriculture Secretary Luis 'Cito' Lorenzo and former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn "Jocjoc" Bolante in connection with the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

The criminal raps came 6 years after the fund scam was discovered and 3 weeks before Gutierrez was to face an impeachment trial at the Senate.