50 lawmakers have pending cases with Ombudsman

By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2011 08:17 PM | Updated as of Mar 08 2011 03:31 PM

MANILA - A day before the House Justice Committee votes on whether the impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has probable cause, the personal spokesperson of the Ombudsman revealed more than 50 incumbent congressmen have pending cases with the Office of the Ombudsman and 4 of them are members of the House Justice Committee.

Atty. Salvador Panelo is convinced this is one of the reasons why lawmakers are keen on impeaching Gutierrez.

"May mga pending case kasi sila kaya they want a friendly Ombudsman to be appointed. The four are Reps. Miro Quimbo, Rey Umali, Niel Tupas Jr. and Rudy Fariñas, " Panelo said.

However, he declined to give details on the cases against the four except that all are violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Panelo also reiterated that Gutierrez does not intend to attend the hearing tomorrow.

"With the way the committee proceeded with indecent haste despite the fact that there is still a pending motion with Supreme Court, it's a foregone conclusion: they are bent to impeach the Ombudsman come hell or high water," he said.

Last month, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte himself admitted he has 2-3 cases pending before the Ombudsman in connection with illegal demolitions when he was still Quezon City mayor.

Fariñas, too, has admitted before that he has a pending case with the Ombudsman.

Employees show support for Ombudsman

About a hundred employees of the Office of the Ombudsman gathered together during their lunch break and held a short program to show their support for their boss, Ombudsman Gutierrez.

Harry Ravelo, president of the Ombudsman Employees Association (OMBEA) and a graft investigator at the agency, said they are all hurt and saddened by the alleged false accusations against Gutierrez, and they can only hope that she would be given a fair trial.

"Mixed ang emotions namin, hindi lang kasi ito tungkol kay Ombudsman kundi ang buong institusyon. Kahit ganito pinagdadaanan ng opisina namin gusto namin ipakita na nagtatrabaho pa rin kami kahit na nasasaktan sa mga paratang," Ravelo said.

Other officials who had a hand in several high-profile cases, like when former President Arroyo was issued a subpoena to appear as a witness in the NBN-ZTE deal, and when the case against her friend, former Justice Secretary Nani Perez, was being investigated, said not once did the Ombudsman ask for a favor or intervene in the proceedings.

The employees intend to hold another assembly tomorrow when the Justice Committee is set to vote if there is probable cause to impeach Gutierrez.