Ombudsman: Don't hit me to get to Arroyo

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Mar 11 2011 12:05 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2011 03:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Friday said detractors should not lash out against her just to get revenge on former President and now congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"Former President Arroyo had so many appointees including justices at the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and Supreme Court. Hindi naman yata tama na ako ay aakusahan dahil mayroon silang hinanakit o gusto nilang akusahan si former President Arroyo," she said in an ABS-CBN "Umagang Kay Ganda" interview.

Gutierrez, a law school classmate of the former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, also denied protecting the Arroyos especially since no case has yet to be filed in her office against the former First Couple.

"Wala akong pagtatakip na ginagawa. Wala pang kaso talaga na sinasampa sa former First Couple," she said.

The Ombudsman said she inhibited herself from a panel investigation on the alleged involvement of the Arroyos in the scuttled $329 million broadband network contract between the Philippine government and China's ZTE Corp. "I inhibited para wala nang masabi na ako ay magiging partial," she said.

The former First Gentleman was accused of protecting the NBN-ZTE deal, which was allegedly brokered by then Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos. President Arroyo approved the contract but was forced to rescind it after a Senate probe showed that it was grossly overpriced.

Ombudsman investigators later cleared the President because she enjoyed presidential immunity.

Gutierrez is facing possible impeachment at the House of Representatives for betrayal of public trust due to her low conviction rate and inaction on the NBN-ZTE scam, fertilizer fund scandal, "Euro generals" scandal and the Philip Pestaño case.

'I am not a hindrance'

Gutierrez, meanwhile, rejected the recommendations of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that she be impeached for "neglecting, weakening and muddling" the plunder case against former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and his family.

The Ombudsman said government prosecutors worked for 5 years on the case and tried to gather evidence and witnesses to convict Garcia of plunder.

She reiterated that the plunder case was weak from the very start because the former Ombudsman had no witness that could back up the plunder accusation before the charges were filed.

"Hindi namin pinahina dahil unang-una pa lang ay mahina na. Dahil wala man lang witness bago i-file ang information. walang sinasabi o sino yung mga contractors o suppliers at kung saang contracts kinuha ang kickbacks," she said.

Gutierrez said the plea bargain was approved by prosecutors based on their honest belief that there was not enough evidence to convict Garcia.

The Ombudsman said she had no intention of resigning since an accusation does not prove guilt.

She also said she should not bee seen as a hindrance by the Aquino administration in its campaign to weed out corruption in government.

"How can I be a hindrance when I am doing my duty to file cases against officials where there is enough evidence proving their guilt?" she asked.

"If they have cases against Arroyo or any government official in the past or during the present administration, why not file it? It is the duty of the Ombudsman to receive and assess the complaints."