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Should 'The Firm' take part in Ombudsman's trial?

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Rep. Kaka Bag-ao of the Akbayan Party disputed allegations that hiring private firms for the impeachment trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez sends the signal that the case presented by the House prosecution panel is weak.

Bag-ao said the involvement of private firms indicates otherwise.

“Ito ay isang indikasyon na malakas yung kaso. Excited yung mga tao, marami ang nagvo-volunteer na sumama sa cause ng impeachment kasi tingin nila ito ay isang historical event sa ating bansa at malaki ang maitutulong nito para sa pagsiguro sa paglaban sa korupsyon,” Bag-ao told ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda.

Bag-ao explained that while the prosecution panel is being criticized for considering hiring the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco or CVCLAW office, also known as “The Firm,” for Gutierrez's impeachment trial, no single law firm was engaged to be part of the prosecution panel.

“Karamihan sa mga abogado kasama namin ngayon ay volunteers. Wala talagang na-hire na maging private prosecutors. Yung lawyers na kasama sa pag-direct at pag-cross, di sila lahat member ng The Firm.”

The CVCLAW used to handle the cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, but it later had a falling out with the Arroyos.

*Question of ethics

Election lawyer Atty. Romulo Macalintal expressed doubts on the hiring of private lawyers from The Firm.

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda, Macalintal said: “The Firm ay ang dating abogado ng dating Pangulong Arroyo at First Gentleman. Magkakaroon ng ethical question sapagkat hindi sila pwede maging abogado ng isang partido na kakalaban sa dati nilang kliyente.”

Macalintal reiterated his previous statement that hiring more lawyers does not show confidence from the prosecutors.

“Ako’y nabigla nung sinasabi magha-hire pa sila ng private firm. Sapagkat iyan ay tanda ng kahinaan ng kaso. Kung malakas ang kaso mo, kahit ikaw ay baguhang abugado, kaya mo panindigan ang iyong kaso,” he said.

“Ang prosecution dapat patunayan ang kaso ni [Ombudsman Gutierrez] on the strength of its own evidence and not on the weakness of the evidence of the defense,” Macalintal added.

*Strength in numbers

Bag-ao, meanwhile, stressed that there is nothing wrong with taking in additional hands to assist the prosecution panel. Bag-ao feels that with the number of witnesses and evidences to be presented, the panel could use all the help they can get.

“Tingin ko mas nakakadagdag ito sa lakas. I’m sure ‘yung mga lawyers na nag-volunteer ay itinataya ang kanilang pangalan at kung tingin nila ay mahina ang kaso, hindi na sila sasali. ’Yung buong team na magpo-prosecute ay mapapatunayan ang guilt ni [Ombudsman Gutierrez],” Bag-ao said.

“Matagal na kaming handa. Ready na kami noon pa. Hindi ko ma-imagine na may acquittal. Sigurado kaming may conviction,” she added. (Abs-Cbnnews)

By JC Rodriguez




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