Despite the opposition of two of its members, the House of Representatives will for the meantime abide by the Supreme Court order stopping the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
“As a courtesy to a co-equal branch of government, we shall, in the meantime, abide by the Court’s order," said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in a statement issued after the adjournment of session Tuesday.
He, however, said the issuance of the status quo ante order was unexpected and appears to infringe on the Constitutional mandate of the chamber as having the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.
“Nonetheless, we shall not abdicate on our duty to perform our mandate under Article II, Section 3 (2) of the Constitution which commands the Committee on Justice to submit its report on the impeachment complaint to the House within 60 session days from its referral, together with the corresponding resolution," Belmonte said.
House justice committee chairman Rep. Niel Tupas and Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III earlier asked permission from Belmonte to proceed with the scheduled hearings this month despite the SC order.
“It seems the (SC) order is indefinite and as lawmakers, we have a sworn duty to follow the Constitution. We ought to follow that oath. The SC cannot dictate on when we can hold the hearings," said Tañada.
Eight of the 15 SC justices voted to issue the order earlier in the day. Three dissented while four were on official business.
“The court has just issued a status quo ante order requiring the parties to observe the status quo prevailing the issuance of the Sept. 1, 2010 and Sept. 7, 2010 resolutions of the House committee on Justice which found the separate impeachment complaints sufficient in form and substance," said SC administrator Jose Midas Marquez in announcing the order.
The impeachment complaints were filed by former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. They accused Gutierrez of not acting on graft cases involving former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Gutierrez is perceived to be close with Arroyo and her family.
Amita Legaspi, GMA News TV