Merci can testify vs Arroyo officials, says PNoy

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 03 2011 12:56 PM | Updated as of May 04 2011 09:05 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - President Aquino is open to the possibility of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez testifying in cases against officials of the Arroyo administration.

"If she testifies, then I think we will welcome. But we do not intend to force anybody, we think there are substantial pieces of evidence for numerous cases already present," Aquino told reporters after administering the oath of officers of the Malacañang Press Corps.

The embattled Ombudsman resigned from her post last Friday, just 10 days before her impeachment trial begins at the Senate.

In a press conference, Gutierrez said she had wanted to fight the impeachment allegations against her in the Senate but realized that she would continually be vilified by detractors as the impeachment trial continues.

"I wanted to face my accusers whatever the personal agony it would have involved but the interest of my family, my office and more importantly the nation must always come before any personal consideration. I have not shirked in the face of pressure. I have never been cowed into submission, never been influenced by anything other than truth and justice," she told reporters.

However, private prosecutors in the cancelled impeachment trial are concerned over a number of appointments that Gutierrez made before she resigned.

They said 3 of the 7 employees assigned as new assistant ombudsman are close to Gutierrez and former Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni.

"Strategic positions lahat kasi ng investigation ng bagong Ombudsman sila ang mag-rerecommend, kasi ang gagawin lang ng bagong Ombudsman is to review the recommendation made by these people," said Stephen David, a member of the former prosecution panel.

Private prosecutors are calling on the next Ombudsman to review the appointments that Gutierrez made.