Ombudsman to lawmakers: Wait for final SC ruling

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Feb 16 2011 12:49 PM | Updated as of Feb 17 2011 12:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday urged congressmen to wait for a final Supreme Court ruling on the Ombudsman's impeachment case before they proceed with the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.

In an interview, Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus Jr. said the Ombudsman will not interfere with the proceedings in the Lower House.

"What we are focusing on is the filing of a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court...What we are doing in the motion is emphasizing the grounds and position of the Ombudsman. Hopefully, the House will allow the process to finish first before they resume the impeachment proceedings," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."

De Jesus noted that there is still hope that the SC will reverse its decision since the voting, 7-5-2, was very close.

Voting 7-5-2 with one abstention, the Supreme Court en banc junked Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's petition to stop the impeachment process and lifted the status quo ante order effectively allowing the House justice committee to proceed with the impeachment proceedings.

Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the majority maintained that the constitutional provision barring two impeachment proceedings against one impeachable officer within a period of one year was not violated in the case of Gutierrez.

He asked all parties to "exercise prudence" and await finality of the decision, noting that Gutierrez has 15 days upon receipt of the decision to file a motion for reconsideration.

For his part, Akbayan party Rep. Walden Bello said the Supreme Court removed a big stumbling block in the impeachment proceedings. He said the House justice committee can now conduct hearings if there is probable cause in the impeachment complaints against Gutierrez.

"By March 26, hopefully, we can bring the case to the plenary and push it to the Senate," he said. A one-third vote of the entire House membership is needed to approve an impeachment complaint and send it to the Senate for trial.

Bello dismissed suggestions that the House justice committee wait for a final SC ruling before proceeding. "We gave due respect to SC as a collegial institution. Almost 5 months na held up. We know the MR will result in the same judgment," he said.

The party-list lawmaker said Gutierrez has much to answer for, including the failure to prosecute cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo.

"Wala namang personalan dito. Ang kaso ho namin is based on the fact that the public expects an official like her, napakacentral to act on cases that affect the public welfare and she did not act therefore she betrayed public trust. That is a violation of the Constitution," he said.

The first complaint against Gutierrez was filed by former Akbayan party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel on July 22, 2010, the second by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other progressive groups on August 3, 2010.

The complaints said the Ombudsman betrayed public trust for its low conviction rates, failure to act on the $329 million NBN-ZTE deal, failure to act on the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, failure to probe the P1-million dinner of the Arroyo entourage during a US trip, refusal to provide copies of Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel Mikey M. Arroyo’s statement of asset and liabilities and net worth, and delays on cases that affect the public's welfare.