Gutierrez seeks Supreme Court's mercy

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2011 10:35 AM | Updated as of Mar 01 2011 07:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines - In a last ditch effort to convince the Supreme Court to reverse its February 15, 2011 decision junking her plea to halt impeachment proceedings on two complaints against her at the Lower House, embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez filed her motion for reconsideration Monday.

Gutierrez said the High Court erred when it ruled she could not invoke the one year constitutional bar on two impeachment complaints against the same impeachable officer.

While the February 15 ruling of the court contended that only one proceeding has been initiated at the Lower House against Gutierrez since the two complaints against her, while filed separately, were referred to the justice committee at the same time, Gutierrez maintained two impeachment proceedings were in fact initiated within the one year bar period, "in clear and flagrant violation of Section 395, Article XI of the Constitution."

Gutierrez cited the High Court's ruling in Francisco vs. House of Representatives which, her motion stated, "reckoned the commencement of the initiation of an impeachment proceeding, and hence, the start of the one (1) year bar on impeachment, from the date of filing of the impeachment complaint against the impeachable officer."

This, notwithstanding the assertion of the ponente of the majority decision on February 15, 2011, Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, incidentally the same ponente in the Francisco case promulgated in November 2003, that "the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the committee on justice for action."

Gutierrez also insisted that the High Court erred when it ruled that she was not deprived by the House Justice Committee of her right to due process of law.

Gutierrez maintained that the Rules of Procedure of the House of Representatives in impeachment proceedings "is mandatory and cannot be dispensed with," and as such, she was deprived due process when the justice committee failed to publish the rules which, she claimed, in effect, were not effective at the time the committee acted on the two complaints on September 1, 2010 and September 7, 2010.

Gutierrez also assailed why the court accepted the consolidation of the justice committee of the two complaints filed by different parties which allege different acts/ommissions purportedly by petitioner.

On July 22, 2010, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, et al. filed the first impeachment complaint against Gutierrez for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for the following acts/omissions:

  • dismal conviction rate of the office of the Ombudsman since 2008, indicative of a "criminal level of incompetence" amounting to dereliction of duty;
  • failure to act promptly on cases filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and other public officials for the botched NBN-ZTE broadband deal;
  • delays in the investigation of the death of ensign Philip Pestaño;
  • upheld the legality of the arrest and involuntary detention of Hontiveros by the Philippine National Police at the height of the "Hello Garci" election controversy;
  • failure to investigate the P1-million dinner for the presidential party at Le Cirque restaurant in New York City;
  • repeated failure to act on various cases and controversies allegedly involving former President Arroyo such as the Mega-Pacific scam; and,
  • refusal to grant ready access to public records including Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) of then presidential son, Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo.

On August 3, 2010, Renato Reyes, Jr. et al. filed the second impeachment complaint for gross betrayal of public trust and culpable violations of the constitution for Gutierrez's purported failure and ommission to act promptly on the fertilizer fund scam, refusal to prosecute former Gen. Eliseo dela paz, one of alleged "euro generals" and alleged repeated failure to take action on the Mega-Pacific poll automation program controversy.