Merci brands House panel a 'kangaroo court'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2011 05:51 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2011 08:44 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Tuesday branded the House of Representatives justice committee a "kangaroo court" as it continued to hear impeachment complaints against her.

Speaking at a forum at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of  the Philippines earlier today, Gutierrez said this is why she did not attend the committee hearings on her impeachment case. She, however, said her lawyers are prepared to fight the impeachment complaint.

"I come before you today not only as the Ombudsman but as an individual whose rights have been trampled upon by the very people tasked to uphold the rule of law. I am deeply saddened by the turn of events as the President himself has ordered his allies in the House of Representatives to impeach me," she said.

She added: "It has confirmed our worst fears that the proceedings in the Lower House has degenerated into a partisan political exercise. They are not interested in ferreting out the truth and seeking out real accountability. They are just interested in removing me from office no matter what the cost. While it's political in nature, it's not a reason for them to skirt the rules. It's no different from a kangaroo court."

Gutierrez said her right to due process was denied at every instance by the justice committee starting with its decision to proceed with the impeachment hearings despite her pending motion for reconsideration asking the Supreme Court to declare the impeachment complaints unconstitutional.

Majority lawmakers earlier voted to proceed with the hearings since the Supreme Court had already junked Gutierrez's petition to stop the impeachment hearings and lift the status quo anti-order that delayed the proceeding for 5 months. The Supreme Court also junked Gutierrez's motion for reconsideration on Tuesday.

The Ombudsman said the undue haste in the impeachment process was motivated by a "personal grudge and partisan agenda" of justice panel chair Niel Tupas Jr. and his colleagues. Gutierrez and her spokesman, Salvador Panelo, earlier revealed that 50 congressmen including Tupas were facing graft charges before the Ombudsman's office.

Gutierrez said the justice committee required her to file an answer to the impeach complaints within 3 days instead 10 days. She said the committee also gave her only 6 days to submit her pleadings and evidence against the evidence submitted by the impeachment complainants on March 2.

She said the justice committee also disallowed her from cross-examining the witnesses in the impeachment hearing.

"Worse, I was told that only Committee members can ask and examine the witnesses and that if I had questions, I should course them through Chairman Tupas. This is the first time that a party expressly granted the right to cross-examine is allowed to do so through a surrogate, and worse, by the very Chairman who has been requested to inhibit himself because of the cases which the Office had filed against his father before the 

Sandiganbayan," she said.

She said Tupas even sent separate subpoenas to her office last week to produce certain documents on Monday, March 7. Tupas said he asked for a copy of a memorandum issued sometime June 2010 wherein the Ombudsman authorized Deputy Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni to review all pending cases before her office.

Gutierrez also denied asking for support from former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies.