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House body to resume impeach proceedings vs Ombudsman next week

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With the Supreme Court ruling giving the go-signal for Congress to resume the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the committee on justice of the House of Representatives said on Tuesday it will start immediately the hearing of the complaints next week.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the committee, said he will schedule next week the hearing of the impeachment complaints against the Ombudsman.

Lawmakers lauded the ruling of the High Tribunal that dismissed Gutierrez’s petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus which cited the Lower Chamber’s alleged "grave abuse of discretion for lack or excess of jurisdiction" in handling her impeachment complaint.

Tupas has called the SC ruling as a "precedent-setting decision" that upheld the "sovereign power of the people through the power of impeachment."

"The SC decision clarifies a lot of questions on the one year bar rule vis-a-vis the public accountability clause," he said, adding that with the ruling, the committee is now free to proceed with its proceedings.

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, one of the complainants in the impeachment case, said the resumption of the impeachment proceedings against the Ombudsman was "timely" especially in the light of fresh allegations of corruption within the military, and with the Ombudsman allegedly not acting on them.

"As we have seen in the plea bargain agreement with Gen. Carlos Garcia, the Ombudsman has not upheld the interests of the government and the people, especially in high-profile corruption cases. The people desire truth and justice but the Ombudsman has failed to deliver," said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

The second impeachment complaint was filed by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, retired military official Danilo Lim, and the Pestano couple.

The Pestanos criticized the Office of the Ombudsman for dismissing the murder case they filed against 10 Navy and police officers over the death of their son, Navy Ensign Philip Pestaño.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, vice chairman of the House justice committee, commended the SC for upholding the position of the Lower Chamber.

"This is all about accountability of the Ombudsman, and all other high officials who can only be removed from office by impeachment, which the Constitution tasks the House of Representatives as the exclusive power to initiate it," he said.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said it was high time the High Court ruled on the matter because the proceedings had stalled for so long.

Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong and Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay said the House should abide by the high court’s decision on the matter.

Gutierrez filed the petition in September last year, few days after the House justice committee voted that the impeachment complaint against her was sufficient in form and substance.

On September 14, the High Tribunal ruled for a status quo ante order directing the House justice committee to stop impeachment proceedings against the Ombudsman.

The status quo ante order stalled the hearings for close to five months. (PNA)

By Lilybeth G. Ison




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