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First in Philippine History - House impeaches Ombudsman Merci

>> Monday, March 21, 2011

I never thought it will happen but it happened. Ombudsman Merci was impeached by the House of Representatives for betrayal of public trust due to the low conviction rates during her term and her alleged inaction on five high-profile cases. What's next? She will be tried before the Senate's impeachment court - "As the court that would hear the case, the Senate would need a two-thirds vote to boot Gutierrez out of office. Otherwise, she stays on as Ombudsman until she finishes her 7-year term in December 2012."

MANILA, Philippines - For the first time in Philippine history, the House of Representatives has impeached the Ombudsman.

In a vote taken on Tuesday morning, the House of Representatives mustered enough votes to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and try her before the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

As the court that would hear the case, the Senate would need a two-thirds vote to boot Gutierrez out of office. Otherwise, she stays on as Ombudsman until she finishes her 7-year term in December 2012.

Lawmakers found enough evidence to have her tried for the following issues: low conviction rate and inaction on the NBN-ZTE scam, fertilizer fund scandal, "Euro generals" scandal, Mega-Pacific deal, and the Philip Pestaño case.

All six cases redound to a betrayal of public trust, sponsors of the Articles of Impeachment argued.

After almost 8 hours, 210 voted to impeach Gutierrez and have the impeachment articles transmitted to the Senate. Forty-seven dissented, while 4 abstained.

The proceedings were hounded by accusations of lobbying from allies of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Edcel Lagman moved to have the impeachment proceedings “held in abeyance” absent an investigation into the “blackmail” text messages that made the rounds over the weekend.

Taking the floor early in the proceedings, Lagman said the text message “demeans the members of the House of Representatives as salivating mercenaries.”

The text message read that all those will vote no on the impeachment will have their Priority Development Assistance Fund withheld.

The minority was subsequently overruled by the majority.

Justice committee chair Niel Tupas Jr., the sponsor of the impeachment complaint, was later grilled for about 3 hours.

He stood his ground even if several minority lawmakers insisted he and his colleagues in the Justice committee did not have a strong case.

He was also questioned for supposedly rushing procedures before the committee. It went on to hear the case even if the Supreme Court has yet to make final a decision quashing a petition filed by Gutierrez.

Tupas insisted that it was the Ombudsman who is wanting in providing justice by delaying relevant decisions.

Those who acted as interpellators were: Representatives Lagman, Danilo Suarez, Rodante Marcoleta, Carlos Padilla, Augusto Syjuco, Rodolfo Albano, Mitos Magsaysay and Marc Cagas. [abs-cbnNEWS.com]

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