'Solons with graft raps need not inhibit in Merci vote'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2011 11:29 AM | Updated as of Mar 08 2011 07:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. said on Tuesday that congressmen with pending graft cases need not inhibit when the House of Representatives votes at the plenary on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

"This is a political process, when I vote, I vote because I'm the representative of the people... I see no conflict of interest in that," Tupas Jr., chairman of the House justice committee, said in an interview Tuesday on ANC's Headstart.

Tupas was commenting on the allegation of Gutierrez' spokesman, Atty. Salvador Panelo, that congressmen want his client impeached because they have pending cases.

He said there were at least 50 congressmen facing graft complaints in the Ombudsman.

"They want a friendly Ombudsman to be appointed," Panelo alleged.

Tupas, whose father, former Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr., has a pending graft case in the Office of the Ombudsman, earlier said Gutierrez's office is using his father's case to influence the impeachment proceedings.

He claimed that an emissary of Gutierrez went to his office and offered to dismiss his father's case if he would "go slow" on the impeachment complaint.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas have admitted that they are facing graft complaints in the Ombudsman.

No filibustering

Tupas said that during Tuesday's hearing on probable cause, the committee will allow impeachment complainants 3 to 5 minutes each to summarize their case.

He said that the committee will not allow filibustering during the hearing.

The committee's members will vote on whether there is probable cause to impeach Gutierrez based on the 2 complaints.

He said that the committee is scheduled to submit a report on Monday, and he expects plenary debates on the impeachment complaints against Gutierrez to start by Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

Tupas said the House may be able to actually vote on Gutierrez's impeachment before Congress adjourns on March 22.

"My estimate, if the plenary debate starts Tuesday or Wednesday, it will take 2 to 3 days before voting happens. Probably, it will happen next week before we adjourn," he said.

Around 150 congressmen are expected to vote for Gutierrez's impeachment.

If the House impeaches Gutierrez, an impeachment trial will follow at the Senate.