‘Ombudsman’s stance will speed up impeach proceedings’

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2011 04:06 PM | Updated as of Feb 25 2011 12:06 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez’ defiance in refusing to submit to the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives pending finality of her appeal before the Supreme Court may speed up the proceedings against her.

House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III and Justice Committee Vice Chairman Rodolfo Fariñas said “we have to follow our rules. If she does not participate, we may finish it within 2 hearing days.”

Tañada said the hearings would be the opportunity for her to air her side. “Even if she does not answer, we will proceed with our hearings on March 1, 2, 8 and 9. She would waive her right to be there if she doesn't show up.”

Fariñas, for his part, said: "That is her option. Like in criminal procedure, a respondent before the prosecutor can waive her right to preliminary investigation and not submit any counter-affidavits nor witnesses, and just proceed to trial in court."

Fariñas added: “In fact, no hearing would have even been necessary if we simply obtained the 1/3 vote needed to file the Articles of Impeachment. That is what I will do for the one I will file on Aug 11, 2011, that is, if she will not withdraw the [plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia].”

Tañada even said the House justice committee bent over for her when she was allowed more days to submit an affidavit.

He said a general denial will be entered on Gutierrez’s behalf if she doesn’t respond. “If she does not file her answer by the time we start the hearing on March 1, we will proceed accordingly and consider that she generally denied the allegations of the complainants and vote on the sufficiency of the grounds.”

After Tuesday’s hearing, additional ones may be called.

“Then, 3 days will be allotted for clarificatory hearings before the committee votes on the probable cause,” House justice committee chairman Niel Tupas, Jr. said.