Merci accepts jurisdiction of House justice panel

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2011 11:55 AM | Updated as of Mar 02 2011 07:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has assented to the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives' Committee on Justice over the impeachment complaints filed against her.

During the House justice committee hearing on Wednesday morning, her counsel Anacleto Diaz informed the members of the committee they would be submitting finally her reply to the allegations included in 2 separate complaints by Friday.

“We would be participating [in the hearings]. We will file our answer ad cautelam, which means we are filing with extreme caution on the back of the filing of our motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court,” he said.

Diaz initially asked that his team be given until Monday to file the Ombudsman’s reply, but was turned down by lawmakers who said they had already given Gutierrez enough time to do so.

The committee voted on Tuesday morning that there are sufficient grounds in the 2 impeachment complaints filed against Gutierrez.

A total of 41 lawmakers agreed with the motion finding sufficiency of grounds in the first impeachment complaint filed by former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros against Gutierrez. Twelve lawmakers dissented.

On the second complaint, a total of 42 justice committee members said there are sufficient grounds for impeachment while 12 dissented.

Gutierrez, in a statement following the voting yesterday (Mar. 1), said that she can no longer expect any fair treatment from the panel’s members.

She said the panel showed “how the constitutional rights of an individual could be trampled upon in the name of politics.”

Since she was unable to file a reply earlier, the panel entered on her behalf a manifestation of general denial.

In his manifestation, however, Diaz said “before these impeachment complaints, she’s had an unblemished record…[We will answer] so that when she will retire next year, she will do so with honor and pride.”

The panel thereafter allowed the endorsers of the first impeachment complaint to present their case.

In her manifestation, Rep. Kaka Bag-ao said there is probable cause to impeach Gutierrez because she is “unfit to continue” as the head of a public office.

She said Gutierrez performed dismally over the years. Citing several reports, the conviction rate of the Ombudsman was a mere 14.4% in 2008, compared to 55% in 2007.

Reports also show that she was only able to convict 1 senior official per year in the last four years, Bag-ao said.