Defiant Ombudsman a no-show at impeach hearing

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2011 10:32 AM | Updated as of Mar 08 2011 08:49 PM

 MANILA, Philippines - True to her word, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez did not appear before Tuesday's hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice tackling the impeachment complaints against her. 

Instead, Gutierrez sent a reply to justice panel chairman Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. questioning the form and substance of the subpoena duces tecum asking for several documents from her office. 

"She cannot produce documents because this would render, according to her, moot and academic the issues raised in the motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court ," Tupas quoted Gutierrez's letter as saying. 

Tuesday's hearing will determine if there is probably cause to send the impeachment complaints against Gutierrez to the Senate for trial. 

Tupas declared a quorum after a total of 43 members were counted at the start of the hearing. 

Tupas said he issued a subpoena requiring the Ombudsman to enter the alleged memorandum issued sometime June 2010 wherein the Ombudsman authorized Deputy Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni to review all pending cases before her office. 

He said that Gutierrez, in her reply, said: "She cannot be compelled to divulge the pending cases before the Office of the Ombudsman." 

She said the subpoena was "oppressive" and that she has the confidentiality of records. 

Atty. Salvador Panelo, Gutierrez's spokesman, earlier said 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. 

He said 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.

Tupas, meanwhile, noted that the justice committee had to bend its rules to accept an affidavit submitted by Gutierrez's lawyer answering the allegations included in the impeachment complaints against her. He said the Ombudsman's answer should be part of the evidence, according to the House rules, provided that the Ombudsman personally appears and affirms it. David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com