150 solons will vote to impeach Gutierrez: sources

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2011 04:22 PM | Updated as of Mar 08 2011 07:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez now seems like a foregone conclusion that’s waiting for a formality in the plenary of the House of Representatives.

At least 2 reliable sources have confirmed to ABS-CBN News that around 150 congressmen will vote to impeach Gutierrez and send next week the Articles of Impeachment for trial at the senate.

The expected nucleus of that number comes from the administration party.

Eighty-two congressmen  of the administration Liberal Party are expected to back the impeachment following the adoption of a party stand in support of the impeachment.

Nine congressmen--2 from Akbayan and 7 from the Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan, Anakpawis and ACT Teachers’ Party-List-- are expected to vote for the impeachment. This would bring the total to 91 or 3 votes shy of the one-third needed for impeachment.

The rest of the votes are expected to come from the Nacionalista Party (NP) bloc, with at least 22 members, and some members of the National Unity Party (NUP), composed of some 30 congressional representatives. The NUP is composed of former members of the former Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMPI) party of ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

House Deputy Speaker Boying Remulla is from the NP. An-Waray Rep. Bem Noel, Accounts Committee chair, is another member of the majority.

Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of the NUP has previously voted with the majority on the impeachment.

Under the House rules, no creeping impeachment—or signature gathering to get the 1/3 vote needed—may be done once the complaint is pending before the Committee on Justice. It should have been achieved upon filing or upon the final plenary vote prior to transmittal to the Senate.

With the resignation of Ronald Singson, the number of congressmen goes down to 282. A third of that is 94.

No support for Merci-Belmonte

Speaker Sonny Belmonte, meanwhile, debunked what has long been whispered about in the halls of Congress---that he is sympathetic to Gutierrez and stopping the impeachment every step of the way.

Belmonte virtually stated that Gutierrez is on her own.

“No. Siya bahala sa defense niya. She should look out for her own interest," he said in a statement.

Belmonte initially tried to delay the process.

LP takes an official stand

The LP adopted its party stand during a party fellowship meeting with President Aquino at Malacañan Palace.

Justice Committee Chair Niel Tupas Jr. said, “Yes, the party has taken an official stand. It will affect the numbers for impeachment. And what I was trying to tell them is I will maintain impartiality till after voting on probable cause. Definitely this will have a big impact not only on voting but at the plenary next week.”

Tupas, however, tried to keep a semblance of impartiality. “It's not yet a foregone conclusion tomorrow. [Justice committee] Members will vote on evidence presented.”

For Tuesday, Tupas said they are awaiting the results of a subpoena for the Ombudsman to bring documents requested by the complainants regarding a memo by Gutierrez authorizing assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni to act on all pending cases.

Once the plenary votes to impeach, an 11-man prosecution team composed of congressmen will be elected.  Tupas is expected to lead this.

Belmonte was the lead impeachment manager during the prosecution of the Estrada impeachment in 2000.

Impartiality

Tupas, meanwhile, downplayed the possible effects of congressmen having cases before the Ombudsman on their voting.

“It doesn’t matter. This is a political process...When the members vote, they don’t vote because of their personal character. We cannot disenfranchise people just because they have pending cases. There's a presumption of innocence,” he said.

Tupas said that unless Gutierrez shows up before the committee to affirm her response, it will be treated as a scrap of paper.

Tupas said Gutierrez submitted to the jurisdiction of the committee when she allowed her lawyer to appear last week.

Politically incorrect Ombudsman

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said the Ombudsman practically conceded the impeachment following her statement that she would rather take her case to the Senate.

“She now admits it will reach the Senate. Nagtitiwala rin naman ako sa Senado. It is easier said than done yung sinasabing gapang," he said.

Casiño and the rest of the progressive bloc also blasted Gutierrez’ criticisms that the justice committee’s proceedings are a "moro-moro."

Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Luz Ilagan said: "It shows political insensitivity to how the term is used. Maraming congressman na Moro."

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said the Ombudsman should respect Congress.

“Dapat may respeto siya sa Kongreso na nagpapatupad ng constitutional duty," he said.

Psy-war

The bloc called as threats and desperate measures Gutierrez’ warnings on cases of congressmen before the Ombudsman, citing the case against justice chair Niel Tupas Jr.’s  father. They feel she’s engaged in a psy-war.

The bloc said the Ombudsman is resorting to threats and desperate measures after she issued warnings against congressmen who have pending cases in her office.

They cited the graft case against justice committee chairman Niel Tupas Jr., which was revived after the committee upheld the impeachment complaints against Gutierrez.

“Nakikipag engage siya at sumasagot. Sana di lang psywar. Um-attend siya ng hearing," Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino said.

Casiño added: “Desperate measures. Congressmen are politically astute to know veiled threats and desperate measures."

The solons called on Gutierrez to face Tuesday’s hearing which is expected to rule on the probable cause. They want her to affirm the reply she submitted last Friday, as it will be questionable unless it’s sworn there.

“Ano silbi ng answer niya if hindi niya susumpaan?” asked Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.

Reyes said they will do a signature drive while their allies in Congress expressed hope that previous votes at the Justice Committee would be a good indicator. “We're encouraged by the outcome of votes sa justice," he said.

The lawmakers also dismissed as shallow the defenses presented by the Ombudsman in her response, saying the Senate will be hard pressed to ignore the evidence against her.