Gutierrez ready for impeachment trial

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Mar 03 2011 08:37 PM | Updated as of Mar 05 2011 01:59 AM

MANILA - There's no stopping impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.

Gutierrez ready for impeachment trial 1Speaking to ANC's "The Rundown," the legal counsel of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Atty. Anacleto Diaz, said they expect a vote at the House plenary and a possible impeachment trial at the Senate.

"We're almost certain the House Justice Committee will vote for the impeachment and transmit that report to the House plenary, which will vote on whether or not the Articles of Impeachment will be transmitted to the Senate for trial, and that is where we hope we will be given time to face our accusers and prove the charges against us in 2 impeachment complaints are false and baseless," Diaz said.

Gutierrez a no-show

Despite repeated invitations, Diaz said he doesn't see the Ombudsman appearing before the House Justice Committee when it resumes its hearings next Tuesday.

Diaz is dismayed at the Justice Committee's insistence on pushing thru with proceedings pending a final decision from the Supreme Court on their appeal to throw out the complaints.

"We feel that the proceeding before the Committee on Justice is moving with indecent and precipitate haste," he said. "I don't know whether the impeachment is so vital to the survival of the nation that it has been put at center stage by the Committee on Justice, forgetting other measures."

Probable cause?

The Ombudsman has been given up to Friday (Mar. 4) to submit their pleading which will form part of evidence in the impeachment case.

Diaz said they are expected to submit their own evidence, otherwise the committee will proceed with determining whether or not probable cause exists for an impeachment case against Gutierrez.

"We were supposed to file a pleading. We would've wanted to file an answer to make sure our participation with the House Committee on Justice is without prejudice with the Motion for Reconsideration we filed before the SC, but the committee, despite our pleas for more time to present evidence, allowed complainants to present evidence," Diaz said.

Unkindest cut

Diaz argued that Gutierrez could not be faulted for allegedly sitting on cases that had been pending since the time of Ombudsmen Aniano Desierto and Simeon Marcelo.

"She would rather err on the side of leniency rather than be strict and file information knowing that any information she filed will affect not only the respondents but also their families," Diaz said.

"What caused the delay are 19 postponements filed by the Pestaños' own lawyers from September 2007 to February 2009. So any delay in the resolution of this case cannot be attributed to the Ombudsman. This is one of the unkindest cuts of all because she is being blamed for something she just inherited from previous predecessors," he said.

Pestaño case

Five days after assuming office, Diaz said, the Ombudsman had even urged the issuance of a subpoena to require the respondents to file their counter affidavit on the Pestaño case.

Diaz also went through the points that were supposed to have gone into their response to the House Justice Committee.

"The answer was supposed to squarely address charges set forth in the impeachment complaints. It was supposed to counter claims the Ombudsman has not done anything on any of the cases mentioned, failed to comply or perform responsibilities as Ombudsman," he said.

'Euro generals'

Gutierrez ready for impeachment trial 2In the "euro generals" case, Diaz said, not only were the "euro generals" administratively charged for dishonesty, misconduct and conduct detrimental to the interest of the government, they were also preventively suspended by the Ombudsman.

He added that even their wives were included in this administrative offense, while preliminary investigations were ongoing for a criminal case and respondents were in the process of submitting their counter-affidavits.

Fertilizer fund

Gutierrez is also accused of disregarding the report of investigators on the Fertilizer Fund scam.

Gutierrez ready for impeachment trial 3"The original investigation was completed but the Senate conducted its own inquiry, and the Ombudsman had to consider the Senate report," Diaz said. He noted the case involved 178 respondents covering 53 provinces and voluminous transactions.

In making an independent assessment, Diaz said, the Office of the Ombudsman could not simply disregard collateral material, including information coming from Senate investigations into the alleged murder of Navy Ensign Philip Pestaño in 1995, contrary to the Navy's findings Pestaño took his own life.

"It is imperative for the Ombudsman to closely and meticulously review the evidence . Prudence dictates that she consider the contents of the report and recommendations made by the Senate," Diaz said.

Alleged inaction

"The only time they acted on the case was last year, a week before the impeachment case was filed against Gutierrez," noted Atty. Ibarra Gutierrez, legal counsel of Akbayan Party, in the same interview over ANC's The Rundown.

He pointed out that since then, there hasn't been much action to further the case, not a single hearing or interview has been conducted.

Atty. Gutierrez pointed out, despite the Ombudsman's duty to promptly resolve cases before it, it has not acted on what the United Nations had called it to task.

"In 2007, Pestaño brought up case to the U.N. Three years later, the U.N. upheld the position of the Pestaños affirming that their rights have been violated and called to task the Ombudsman for a fair and impartial investigation," Atty. Gutierrez said.

Sufficient grounds

Atty. Gutierrez said they are confident that there are sufficient grounds for impeachment.

"I can't predict at this point how House will decide. We remain optimistic we will be upheld. That optimism is based on our belief there's a very strong case against the Ombudsman," added Atty. Gutierrez.

"As the complaints have attempted to demonstrate, there has been a pattern where the Ombudsman protects certain people at the expense of others. In high-profile cases, including that of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the First Gentleman, she has been fairly consistent in maintaining the position that these people can't be prosecuted or the evidence submitted to her office does not support or merit the filing of cases versus these people. That consistency raises doubts on her impartiality," Gutierrez said.