MANILA, Philippines – The spokesman of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez does not see anything wrong with the alleged visit of former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Arroyo with Gutierrez last Tuesday.
Atty. Salvador Panelo, spokesperson of Gutierrez, said he has no personal knowledge of Arroyo's visit at Gutierrez's house hours after the latter was impeached by the House of Representatives.
He added he sees nothing wrong with the visit especially since the Ombudsman is under siege.
"Alam mo, mahirap kasi bigyan ng kahulugan ang bisita ng isang dating presidente na ngayon ay isang kongresista. Unang-una, Merceditas Gutierrez is under siege. Kailangan niya ang lahat ng simpatiya at suporta ng mga taong naniniwala na siya ay inosente," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
"Hindi masama na isang mamamayan tulad ng dating presidente Gloria Macapagal Arroyo na i-express ang kanyang sympathy with the Ombudsman," he added.
Panelo said he does not expect Arroyo's visit to affect Gutierrez's impeachment trial in the Senate. He said accusations that the Ombudsman protected Arroyo from graft and plunder cases are not true.
"In fact, those perceived close to Arroyo like [former elections chief] Benjamin Abalos and Romulo Neri are facing cases. It is also not true that former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was not investigated. He was investigated but no evidence was found linking him to the NBN-ZTE scandal," he said.
Iloilo 5th District Rep. Niel Tupas, chairman of the House justice committee, said Arroyo's visit merely confirms that Ombudsman Gutierrez is close with the former President.
"It is public knowledge but personally if former President Arroyo did go to Gutierrez, maybe she just sympathized with her," he said.
He said the visit will not affect the impeachment process but will have an impact in the minds of the public.
"Sa mata ng publiko, na re-reinforce yung pagtingin na talagang yun ang dahilan, masyadong malapit at pinroteksyunan ni Ombudsman ang dating pamahalaan ni congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," Tupas said.
Panelo, meanwhile, said he does not agree that majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives were swayed by public opinion to impeach Gutierrez.
Instead, he pointed to a malicious text message that purportedly blackmailed congressmen to vote for the impeachment or risk getting zero funds from the House appropriations committee.
"I believe if there was secret balloting hindi ganun ang tindi ng boto...Majority of representatives were 'tsunamied', to use that word, in voting for the impeachment," he said.
He said he expects senators to be more "judicious and circumspect" in handling the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez.