Gloria Arroyo Ally May be Out in Philippines

Philippine Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who has played a major role in insulating former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from prosecution over a number of issues, may be on her way out.

What a difference a year makes," said Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Teodoro Casiño at the Tuesday hearing of the House committee on justice, where its members agreed there is probable cause to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

Everyone knows what Casiño was talking about. A change of power has occurred. The numbers are now stacked against allies of former President Arroyo, who used to lord it over at the House of Representatives. In Tuesday’s hearing, they represented the minority.

The new party in power, the Liberal Party headed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, declared it has the numbers to impeach Gutierrez, an appointee of Arroyo and law school classmate of her husband, Mike Arroyo. The minority raised legal questions that delayed the impeachment from reaching the plenary committee.

However, the committee on justice voted 39-9-1 (39 in favor, 9 against and one abstention) to find probable cause on the first impeachment complaint, concerningher office’s low conviction rate, slow action complaint on a US$300-million scandal over an NBN-ZTE deal to install broadband, and questionable ruling against the arrest of a former representative in 2006.

In the second complaint, the committee voted 39-6-1 to impeach, citing Ombudsman’s failure to file criminal cases against public officials involved in the P728 million-fertilizer scam, the P1-billion Megapacific automation case and the P6. 9 million "Euro generals" scandal.

On Feb. 18, the committee received Gutierrez’s answer to the allegations raised against her. On March 8, she sent her reply to the committee’s request for updates on the corruption cases. The documents made a bundle two feet thick. Committee members complained that they had not had a chance to read through her defense.

Newsbreak reported that the Supreme Court last year stopped the House from hearing the impeachment complaints against the Ombudsman even as Justices Antonio Carpio, Lourdes Sereno and Conchita Carpio-Morales claimed they weren’t able to receive and go over the Gutierrez’s 60-page petition.

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