MANILA, Philippines - Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez is wondering why Malacañang has referred to the House of Representatives portions of the committee report pertaining to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
“This (referral) is an action with no meaning,” he said, referring to the incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) report that found the Ombudsman also culpable for the hostage fiasco.
“It is vague. This referral has no effect at all on the impeachment moves against the Ombudsman.”?Rodriguez said the Palace might want to include whatever possible charges against Gutierrez in the impeachment complaint against her.
“Or do they want to file their own complaint?” he said.?Under the Constitution, the House can only entertain one impeachment complaint against the same official in one year, Rodriguez said.?Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, committee on justice chairman, said new charges cannot be included in the pending complaints.?Malacañang’s legal team composed of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and chief presidential legal counsel Eduardo de Mesa referred to the House “for appropriate action” the case of Gutierrez.
The hostage taker —Rolando Mendoza —was reportedly enraged by Gutierrez’s not being clear about acting on his demand for reinstatement in the police force.?Meanwhile, Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus Jr. said the anti-graft agency cannot comment on recommendations to charge Gutierrez and Deputy Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices Emilio Gonzales III until they have received an official copy of the report.
“We just received from media sources that the Office of the President has issued its final review of the IIRC report,” he said.
“We have not yet received our official copy and we would rather wait before making any specific reaction.”
Malacañang has upheld the IIRC recommendation that Gutierrez and Gonzales be charged for the Aug. 23 tragedy that left eight tourists killed.
House defends Gutierrez impeachment before SC
The House of Representatives defended yesterday before the Supreme Court (SC) the impeachment of Gutierrez.
In oral arguments, retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza, House committee on justice counsel, told the justices that actions taken by the House on the two impeachment complaints against Gutierrez were consistent with the rules and the Constitution.?The committee on justice did not violate the Constitution which states that “no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year,” he added.?On questioning of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, Mendoza said the period of initiation of impeachment proceedings covers the filing of a complaint up to the ruling of the House plenary on the case.?“Initiation means proceedings from the filing of complaint until final action of House,” he said.
“That’s the initiation of the impeachment case. The continuation of the case is the proceedings in Senate.”
On questioning of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Mendoza rebutted the argument of Gutierrez that the one-year rule on impeachment complaints makes the second complaint a prohibited pleading and the justice committee’s action on the two complaints was a “circumvention” of the ban.?“The termination of this initiation period is up to the time when the committee makes a report and plenary acts on that report,” he said.
“If there is no action yet by the plenary on the complaint, then the initiation is still effective.”
Mendoza said the House has the exclusive power to handle the impeachment case against Gutierrez.?“We have to concede to the Congress on this exercise of (impeachment) power vested to them by the Constitution,” he said.?Mendoza said the justice committee has not yet consolidated the two complaints against Gutierrez and only opted to simultaneously hear them, considering time constraint on the proceedings.?The committee only has 60 days to determine sufficiency in form and substance of the complaints, to rule on grounds of impeachment raised and to determine probable cause, he added.?Assistant Solicitor General Tomas Laragan asked the SC to dismiss the petition of Gutierrez to stop the impeachment proceedings against her.?Gutierrez erred in seeking relief from the SC without first exhausting all remedies available for her under the impeachment process in the House, he added.
Laragan said Gutierrez has not been deprived due process.
“In fact, she was given the chance to answer the allegations in the complaints and raise her defense, including her claim of insufficiency of form and substance of the complaints, before the committee on justice,” he said.?Laragan said the Constitution and the rules on procedure in impeachment proceedings do not require that an impeachment complaint charge only one offense.
“To the contrary, the inclusion of betrayal of public trust allows the filing of several charges as grounds for impeachment,” he said.?Non-publication of the House rules of procedure in impeachment proceedings did not affect the validity of the impeachment proceedings against Gutierrez, Laragan said.?Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. backed the defense of the House in rejecting the petition of Gutierrez.
In his motion for intervention, he invoked the exclusive power of Congress to initiate an impeachment case.
Belmonte’s counsel, UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen, said the ban was not violated since it covers the filing and referral of the complaints to the handling committee.
Belmonte criticized the previous practice, which barred the reception of other complaints after the first impeachment complaint is filed.?He justified his intervention in the case as it “affects the prerogatives of the House of Representatives.”?The impeachment proceedings against Gutierrez are just a “waste of time,” according to her counsel, retired SC Justice Serafin Cuevas.?Gutierrez’s other lawyer, former justice secretary Estelito Mendoza, agreed with Cuevas.
Before the start of the oral argument, Cuevas said Gutierrez’s remaining term “is for two years only” so the impeachment proceedings against her before could be futile because they could possibly go beyond her term of office.?“Impeachment is a political matter,” he said.
“It can go beyond the two-year period if it goes back to the House committee on justice, and subsequently to the Senate, for a full blast hearing.”?Mendoza said why can’t they file the impeachment complaint after Gutierrez retires since she has only two years to go.
“She is not that important to divert attention of the Senate,” he said.
“If I were President Aquino I would discourage this. He has his priorities.”
Paolo Romero, Philippine Star