Ombudsman tells SC she won't get fair treatment if impeachment raps proceed PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 October 2010 14:28

The legal counsels of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Wednesday told the Supreme Court (SC) that she will not get fair treatment if the two impeachment proceedings filed against her will push through, saying that the proceedings will also affect the Ombudsman's office especially the government's drive against graft and corruption.

In a 124-page memoranda, former Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary and erstwhile SC Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas said, "The numerous charges alleged in the two (2) Impeachment Complaints filed against her cannot be properly defended without reviewing the facts and circumstances pertaining to each charge spanning over three years which will not only enslave petitioner Ombudsman in preparing her defense but also disable her from performing her duties and functions as Ombudsman."

"The respondent Committee violated the laws and settled jurisprudence which require the publication of laws and rules of procedure which affect third parties. Petitioner Ombudsman will be compelled to respond and defend herself against the numerous and disparate acts and/or omissions alleged in the two complaints and will subject her to undue harassment and oppression and prevent her from performing her functions and duties as Ombudsman," Cuevas added.

He pointed out that the proceedings in the impeachment case was rushed even before the publication of the House's own rules on such proceedings.

Records from the House of Representatives showed that last September 1 and 7, Cuevas said, the "rudimentary requirements of due process have been disregarded."

Cuevas said that the House Committee on Justice disregarded the issue on the constitutionality of accepting two impeachment Complaints against the Ombudsman within the one year bar.

Article XI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that "No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year."

Cuevas also reiterated the fact that Committee Chairman, Rep. Niel C. Tupas, Jr. refused to inhibit from the Committee hearings on the impeachment, despite having been charged with a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, while his father, former Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas, Sr., has a pending case with the Sandiganbayan after the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause against him.

"The inhibition of the Committee Chairman affects the integrity of the proceedings, he being the presiding officer of the Committee hearings who guides and oversees the conduct of proceedings and rules upon the objections raised by the Committee members. It is not enough that a public official is upright; he must also be above suspicion.

In her petition for certiorari and prohibition, Gutierrez said that Congress committed grave abuse of discretion and that she has no other "plain, speedy, and adequate remedy."

She also sought for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction and the immediate raffle of her case.

The first impeachment complaint was filed against Gutierrez on March 2009 by former Senate President Jovito Salonga and other civil society leaders.

The complainants alleged that Gutierrez should be held accountable for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution in the handling of several cases involving the previous administration.

However, the complaint was dismissed on September, 2009 due to insufficiency in form.

But with the approval of the other impeachment case against her not more than a year later violates the 1987 Constitution.

Gutierrez also asked the SC to declare as void the House Committee on Justice's resolution that found the impeachment complaint against her sufficient in form.

Two weeks after the filing of the petition, the SC issued a "status quo ante" order against Congress effectively stopping Congress from pushing through with the impeachment proceedings.