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House transmits impeachment articles to Senate

UPDATED 4:30 p.m. - The members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon proceeded to the Senate in Pasay City to transmit to senators the six articles of impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. The lawmakers transmitting the articles were led by House Justice committee chairman Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., according to a radio dzBB report. With Tupas were other Justice committee members: Representatives Lorenzo Tañada III, Teddy Casino, Rodolfo Farinas, and Neri Colmenares. Accompanying the lawmakers were former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) director general Renato Reyes, who were the lead complainants in the two separate impeachment complaints filed before the House of Representatives. Upon arriving at the Senate shortly before 3:00 p.m., the lawmakers proceeded straight to the office of Senate Secretary Emma Lirio-Reyes on the sixth floor to transmit the eight-page House Resolution 105, which enumerated the six articles of impeachment. Tupas said the prosecution has the highest chance of scoring a conviction in the impeachment article pertaining to the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. The radio report quoted the congressmen as saying aside from testimonies, the prosecution will also be presenting "boxes of documentary evidence" to pin down Gutierrez. Tupas also said they are planning on tapping private lawyers to join the prosecution panel. Senators are still in the process of deliberating on an eight-page Senate resolution, prepared by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, seeking to adopt the rules of procedure on impeachment trials. The congressmen are also going to stand as prosecutors when the Senate starts its trial of the Ombudsman's impeachment case on May 9. During Senate's regular session on Tuesday, Sotto asked his fellow lawmakers to approve the adoption of the impeachment rules. However, several senators stood up either to ask for some clarifications or air their reservations on some portions of the resolution. Support Ombudsman's impeachment President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on Wednesday called on Filipinos to support the government's anti-corruption efforts, including the move to impeach Gutierrez. In a speech before the Philippine Economic Briefing in Cagayan de Oro City, Aquino said, "As the Senate prepares to try the ombudsman, I urge you to support this and other efforts to fight corruption." "Together, we can eliminate the dark elements that hinder us from the true and lasting change that we have long hoped for. Together, we can end the systematized corruption that has prevented our country from fulfilling its vast potential," Aquino said. Aquino said the impeachment of Gutierrez is part of the government's efforts to curb corruption in the country. Betrayal of public trust 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. 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. - Mark Merueñas, Amita Legaspi, VVP, GMA News