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House impeaches Merci for betrayal of public trust

March 22, 2011 12:13am
UPDATED 2:00 p.m. - The House of Representatives approved early on Tuesday the articles of impeachment to bring Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to trial at the Senate for her alleged betrayal of public trust.

In a 212-46 vote with four abstentions, the lawmakers impeached Gutierrez for alleged betrayal of public trust due to the low conviction rates during her term and her supposed inaction on five high-profile cases.

The House members approved House Justice Committee Report No. 778 as contained in House Resolution 1089 stating the articles of impeachment against Gutierrez after almost seven hours of marathon plenary discussions.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, vice-chairperson of the House justice panel which recommended the impeachment complaint, said the huge number of lawmakers who voted to approve the impeachment case is a “clear signal" of the lower chamber’s support of the case.

“Magandang signal ito para sa Senado na buo ang mga kinatawan. It sends a clear signal on the impeachment action of the House," he told reporters after the vote.

Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, one of the lawmakers who voted against the approval of the case, meanwhile said that he thinks Gutierrez did not commit any impeachable offense.

“I feel that the accusations do not constitute any impeachable offense precisely because no probable cause has been established... Betrayal of public trust is a gray area being overwhelmed right now by a political agenda," he said in a speech to explain his vote.

The party-list representative is the son of former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who also voted against the approval of the case against Gutierrez, one of her appointees during her term.

Abstentions, vote change
How the lawmakers voted

1. Abad, Henedina R.
2. Abaya, Joseph Emilio A.
3. Abayon, Daryl Grace J.
4. Acharon, Pedro Jr. B.
5. Acop, Romeo M.
6. Aggabao, Giorgidi B.
7. Aglipay, Emmeline Y.
8. Agyao, Manuel S.
9. Alcala, Irvin M.
10. Almario, Thelma Z.
11. Almonte, Jorge T.
12. Alvarez, Antonio C.
13. Alvarez, Mercedes K.
14. Amante-Matba, Angelica M.
15. Amatong, Rommel C.
16. Angara, Juan Edgardo M.
17. Angping, Ma. Zenaida B.
18. Antonio, Patricio T.
19. Apacible, Tomas V.
20. Apostol, Sergio F.
21. Arago, Ma. Evita R.
22. Arenas, Ma. Rachel J.
23. Arnaiz, George P.
24. Arquiza, Godofredo V.
25. Asilo, Benjamin DR.
26. Avance-Fuentes, Daisy
27. Bag-ao, Kaka J.
28. Bagatsing, Amado S.
29. Balindong, Pangalian M.
30. Banal, Jorge 'Bolet'
31. Batocabe, Rodel M.
32. Bautista, Franklin P.
33. Bello, Walden F.
34. Belmonte, Feliciano Jr. R.
35. Belmonte, Vicente Jr. F.
36. Benitez, Alfredo 'Albee' B.
37. Bernos, Ma. Jocelyn V.
38. Biazon, Rodolfo G.
39. Binay, Mar-Len Abigail S.
40. Bonoan-David, Ma. Theresa
41. Bravo, Narciso Jr. R.
42. Brawner Baguilat, Teddy Jr.
43. Briones, Nicanor M.
44. Bulut-Begtang, Eleanor C.
45. Cabaluna, Salvador III P.
46. Cabilao Yambao, Jonathan
47. Cajayon, Mary Mitzi L.
48. Canonigo, Ranulfo P.
49. Cari, Jose Carlos L.
50. Casiño, Teddy A.Read more

Among the House members who abstained during the vote were Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla and Las Pinas Rep. Mark Villar—who are both related to incumbent senators who will serve as jurors once the case is transmitted to the Senate.

Rep. Mercado-Revilla is the wife of Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. while Rep. Villar is the son of Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.

San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito, son of former President Joseph Estrada, meanwhile changed his vote from “no" to “yes" after he supposedly realized the need for a “quest for truth."

“Kanina hindi pa ako desidido. Kinlaro ko lang. For the quest for truth, I voted for yes. Yes to the prosecution of former President Arroyo," he told reporters after changing his vote.

Another affirmative vote from Makati Rep. Mar-Len Binay was also unaccounted for during the initial announcement of votes, where the House secretary general announced a 210-47 vote with four abstentions.

Impeachable offenses

The approved articles of impeachment states the following impeachable offenses which Gutierrez allegedly committed:

(1) under Gutierrez, the Office of the Ombudsman has performed dismally as shown by the office’s low conviction rate;

(2) the unreasonable failure to take prompt and immediate action on complaints filed against various public officials, including former President and now incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo regarding the National Broadband Network (NBN)-ZTE project;

(3) the inexcusable delay of the Ombudsman in conducting and concluding its investigation into the wrongful death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine navy vessel;

(4) inaction in the matter of the Fertilizer Fund Scam;

(5) inaction in the matter of the Mega Pacific deal on automated polls machines; and

(6) inaction in the matter of the “Euro Generals" issue.

Palace welcomes House decision

Meanwhile, Ricky Carandang, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary, said "80 percent of the House voted to impeach the Ombudsman."

"This sends a strong message to the public and the Senate and is a significant step in the fight against corruption. We congratulate and thank the House," Carandang said.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, "The House of Representatives made history tonight by approving the articles of impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. By doing so, the House has put an end to the long era of impunity that tarnished our institutions and made a mockery of the bedrock principle of accountability enshrined in our Constitution."

"In contrast to the recent past, when the shame of our institutions was cloaked in darkness, it is as if daylight radiated from the Session Hall of the House as it voted to uphold the principle that public office is a public trust. No one is above scrutiny and no one, particularly the brazen, can escape accountability," Lacierda said in a statement posted on the Official Gazette.

"The House, in transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, now has the task to vigorously and effectively make its case to the combined juries of the Senate sitting as the Court of Impeachment, and to the Filipino people who will be sitting in judgment on the entire process. This is the glory of democracy: where the law applies to all, where scrutiny exempts no one, and where accountability is for our institutions to exact," he said.

Transmittal of articles of impeachment

With the approval of the case at the lower chamber and upon the transmittal of the articles of impeachment, the Senate will have to convene as an Impeachment Court, before which Gutierrez will be given a chance to defend herself.

A two-thirds vote of all senators—in this case 16 out of the 23 senators—is needed to convict the Ombudsman. – MRT/VVP, GMA News
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