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House to start impeachment proceedings vs Ombudsman in March

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With a vote of 21-5, the committee on justice of the House of Representatives set the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez next month.

House committee chair and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. on Tuesday said impeachment hearings will be held on March 1, 2, 8 and 9.

He said Gutierrez would be given three days to answer the complaint, adding that a "general default" will be entered if the Ombudsman will not reply and the House justice committee will proceed in determining the substance of the impeachment complaint.

House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada said "it is high time that we continue with these proceedings. We cannot make the people wait any longer."

"We will definitely ensure that, as much as we will deliver justice speedily, there will be a thorough and fair handling of the entire process," he added.

Tanada said that if the Ombudsman keeps on claiming that she's innocent, "she must submit herself to the process and cease dilly-dallying by running to the courts for protection."

He said Gutierrez must answer the impeachment complaints filed against her.

"Let's settle this (impeachment complaints) once and for all," he said.

Gutierrez has been charged with culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

The Ombudsman filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.

On Feb. 15, the High Tribunal dismissed the petition and gave a go-signal for the House justice committee to proceed with the impeachment hearings.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. earlier wanted to wait for the final decision of the SC before proceeding with the impeachment hearing.

He, however, gave a go-signal later to proceed with the hearing.

Belmonte said he was assured by Solicitor-General Jose Anselmo Cadiz and lawyers handling the case that there would be no legal barriers that would stop the impeachment proceedings against the Ombudsman.

"We had a meeting with our lawyers, including the Solicitor-General last night, and the unanimous view is there is no legal impediment to continue (with the impeachment proceedings), so we decided to continue," said Belmonte in a text message to the media members covering the House.

The Ombudsman is expected to file another motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court.

By Lilybeth G. Ison -PNA




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