House panel to determine "sufficiency in substance" on impeachment rap vs Ombudsman

August 25, 2009 3:37 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Aug. 25 — The committee on justice of the House of Representatives is set to determine on Wednesday the "sufficiency in substance" of the impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez.

The 33-page impeachment complaint was filed by former Senate President Jovito Salonga, et al. and endorsed by Reps. Risa Hontiveros, Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casino, Liza Maza, Luzviminda Ilagan, Rafael Mariano, Teofisto Guingona III, Walden Bello, Joel Maglunsod, Neri Javier Colmenares, Raymond Palatino, Emmanuel Villanueva, Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales and Lorenzo Tanada III.

Last May 5, the House committee on justice found "sufficient in form" in the impeachment complaint against the Ombudsman.

According to the complainants, the Office of the Ombudsman had become "synonymous to inaction, mishandling, or downright dismissal of clear cases of graft and corruption."

The complainants also criticized Gutierrez for "her arbitrariness" and accused her of committing "impeachable acts of grossly betraying public trust and culpably violating the Constitution."

The complaint claimed that the Ombudsman "deliberately disregarded" the Supreme Court (SC) findings and directives on the Mega Pacific case where the High Court declared null and void the P1.3-billion contract for the purchase of the counting machines.

In September 2006, Gutierrez absolved Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos and other poll officials in the case.

The complaint also alleged that the Ombudsman did not act on the "collusion scheme entered into by the bidders, government officials, and public figures" on the World Bank (WB)-funded projects.

As for the fertilizer fund scam case, the complainants said Gutierrez has slept on the case filed before her office since 2006.

"The Philippines deserves an Ombudsman who will perform her constitutional mandate and protect the people from graft and corruption, not someone who protects the perpetrators of graft and corruption," the complaint said.

"The pattern of Ombudsman Gutierrez’s deplorable acts is highly dangerous. It all points to her lack of respect for the basic requirements of due process and utter disregard of her constitutional mandate, which clearly constitute betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution," it said.

Gutierrez earlier accused her detractors of using politics to bring her down.

She said the Liberal Party (LP), where Salonga was chairman Emeritus, was getting back at her because of the graft charges her office filed against the party’s vice-president, Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta last February.

The Ombudsman ordered the filing of graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against Acosta, his mother and their relative for supposedly defrauding the government of P10.5 million in public funds.

Gutierrez also dared Salonga to account for the loss of important documents against former President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies in Washington when he (Salonga) was chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) during the Aquino administration.

She said the loss of the documents resulted in the dismissal of about 90 percent of the cases filed against the late dictator and his allies.

The Ombudsman also hit back at Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, one of the endorsers of the impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives, for using the case to gain popularity for her senatorial bid in the 2010 elections. (PNA)

RMA/LGI

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