THE congressional allies of President Benigno Aquino III voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to allow two impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to move forward, finding them sufficient in substance.
The committee on justice voted 41-14 and 41-16 in favor of the two complaints filed separately by former Akbayan lawmaker Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes.
The votes pave the way for the justice committee to hold hearings before reporting the complaint to the plenary. The impeachment complaint must be signed by 30 percent of all House members before it can be sent to the Senate for trial.
Gutierrez is accused of sitting on the graft complaints against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, a charge that she has denied.
Gutierrez said Tuesday she was unfazed by the progress of the impeachment complaints and that she would be vindicated. The majority came to the committee hearing in full force and defeated all minority attempts to delay the vote.
Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Deputy Speakers Raul Daza, Lorenzo Tañada III and Crispin Remulla were on hand to ensure that the votes went in favor of the majority.
“It is our intention to refer the complaints together... nothing stops the justice panel from voting on the complaints’ sufficiency in substance,” Gonzales said.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, citing the provision that only one impeachment complaint against any official could be accommodated in a year, refused to vote on the second complaint. But his abstention did not matter given the majority’s strength in numbers.
The minority bloc complained of “mob rule” and accused the majority of railroading the proceedings.
Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, a Justice secretary during the Arroyo administration, said the vote violated the constitutional ban on having more than one impeachment complaint against the same official in a year.
“The House leadership, presumably upon Palace orders, wanted the complaints fast-tracked and railroaded,” Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV said.
“Due process was absent in the hearing. This is the first time where two impeachment complaints were simultaneously passed.”
Karl Allan Barlaan and Christine Herrera, Manila Standard Today