Aquino: No trade-off for Merci resignation

By David Dizon,

Posted at Apr 29 2011 04:25 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2011 08:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Friday thanked Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez for resigning but said there was no trade-off for the latter's resignation.

In a press conference, Aquino said Gutierrez's resignation spares the country the arduous task of a long impeachment process.

He said the only concession given to Gutierrez for her resignation was continued security after she steps down.

"I thanked her for doing this...She asked about her security. I said I have no problem with continued security if she submits a formal request. She is the Ombudsman and she prosecutes very powerful people," he said.

The President said he personally assured Gutierrez that there was nothing personal in Malacañang's call to remove her from office.

He said the plea bargain of former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia perfectly encapsulates why Malacañang wanted her out of the office.

The Office of the Ombudsman came under attack several months ago when it entered into a plea bargaining agreement with Garcia. The agreement calls for dropping of the plunder charge against Garcia in exchange for the officer’s return of a portion of the more than P300 million he supposedly plundered.

Aquino said the plea bargain gives the wrong message to officials: that it is okay to commit plunder "as long as you steal enough so you can give back just enough to the country."

The President said he has instructed the Judicial Bar and Council to start the selection process for a new Ombudsman.

He said he will consult Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa and his legal advisers if the new Ombudsman would get a new term or finish the unexpired term of Gutierrez.

He said the naming of a new Ombudsman would erase fears that weak cases will be filed against corrupt officials.