Momentum on to expose corruption of Arroyo allies?

By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Feb 15 2011 06:21 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2011 02:21 AM

Miriam says removing Gutierrez will take a long time

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers and different organizations today hailed the Supreme Court for giving its nod to the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, saying this has set the stage to expose the other corrupt practices of the officials under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s time.

In a statement, Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change chairperson Sister Mary John Mananzan said “removing Gutierrez from the Office of the Ombudsman is a crucial victory for the people who have long been fighting to end the corruption with impunity perpetrated by the Arroyo administration.”

For its part, the Kilusang Mayo Uno said “this is an opening for the people’s struggle for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her minions to be tried and punished for their grave crimes to the Filipino workers and people.”

Mananzan, in particular, cited the Garcia plea deal supported by the Ombudsman. The hearings in Congress, which had been participated in by Gutierrez, spawned several more controversies on widespread corruption in the military.

The House Committee on Justice intends to amend the complaint to include the issues surrounding the plea deal.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, for its part, said the success of the impeachment would also “test the accountability of government institutions under the Aquino government.”

The groups said this is a political process that would require the support of Aquino allies both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

SC realized mistake

Lawmakers also chimed in and welcomed the SC decision.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said the high court realizing its mistake is a most welcome development.

“The failure of the Ombudsman to act swiftly on corruption cases has emboldened many to continue with their corrupt ways. The last thing we want is a Supreme Court that is perceived to be a stumbling block in the efforts to address pervasive corruption in government,” he said.

Senator Franklin Drilon agreed, but said the public should not prejudge the Ombudsman.

“Let the House decide on the merits whether or not there are sufficient grounds for impeachment. Beyond that, I cannot say anything because it might come to us,” he said.

The enemies of Gutierrez have to muster at least 1/3 vote in the House of Representatives. This will then move up to the Senate, where a vote of 2/3 is needed in an impeachment trial.

Gutierrez still has 2 years?

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said if the Aquino allies fail to get the numbers, “it's just a waste of the resources of our country that could otherwise be spent on other economic and policy matters.”

In the meantime, Gutierrez will remain as Ombudsman absent the final decision from the Senate.

"She can only be deprived of the position after she has been found guilty by the Senate. It will take a long, long time, maybe two years, she'll still be there,” Santiago forecasted.

Gutierrez has 15 days within which to file a motion for reconsideration. The SC can take as long as 3 months to come up with a final and executory decision, she said.

“Even assuming for the sake of argument that the Supreme Court reiterates its original decision, then the House of Representatives would have about three months. So we're looking at about six months before the case comes to the Senate,” she added.

Santiago said she is not excited with the transfer of the case to the Senate, noting that lawmakers’ function is to pass laws.

“Sometimes it's very dangerous to give the power of impeachment to people who have never had the experience with our judicial system,” she said.