Monday, March 21, 2011

Impeaching an Ombudsman!

The seemingly impossible has happened in the Philippines. Last night, or very early Tuesday morning, after months of preliminary hearings and long debates that lasted up to yesterday's proceedings, the Philippines's House of Representatives approved the articles of impeachment that will enable a trial at the Philippine Senate for current Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. The Ombudsman, who is supposed to see to it that erring Filipino government officials will have to answer to the law, is herself accused of betraying the public trust.

The Congress Representatives voted in this manner: 212 said Yes to the impeachment, 46 said No, and 4 abstained. There were at least two Congress Representatives absent. The number of Yes votes was surprising but welcomed. The Congress Representatives (particulary members of the House Committee on Justice) who sought Gutierrez's impeachment thought they could get only the minimum of 92 or 95 votes up to about 140 to 150 votes for Yes. But it seems that together with having a new Philippine President who assumed office May last year and vowed to cleanse the Philippines of corruption, the Philippine Congress is now also populated with more officials who care more for their country than their own selves.

In the past years, Filipinos have had low regard for their lawmakers, seeing them as a bunch of goons or even as crocodiles ready to pounce on any and every income-earning opportunity for themselves. It didn't help that recent past presidents of the Philippines, especially the immediate past President, have had their own big share of accusations of graft and corruption. Which is, in fact, the very reason why Ombudsman Gutierrez is now feeling the heat.

With the overwhelming Yes vote this Tuesday morning to House Justice Committee Report No. 778 as contained in House Resolution 1089 stating the articles of impeachment against the Ombudsman, the Congress Representatives affirmed that she could be liable for the very low conviction rate during her term and that she slept on several high-profile investigations or cases, which because of the involvement of high-ranking government officials , including the alleged involvement of a former Philippine President, raises suspicions against her that she deliberately acted slowly or acted wrongly on these cases in order to save the asses of these officials.

Now that the House of Representatives has affirmed the impeachment of Ombudsman Gutierrez, they will turn over the reins to the Philippine Senate that will conduct her trial, together with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Filipino people very much await the trial that will unfold. Everyone is saying that her trial will open the long-shut can containing the worms, err, the names that she has been protecting, even after they have alleged to have pocketed for themselves billions of the Filipinos' hard-earned money.

May the Lord bless the Senators who will sit as judges. Like the Congress Representatives who have crossed party lines in overwhelmingly voting Yes to Gutierrez's impeachment, may these Senators also put country first before their own political parties and selves.

Photo of Gutierrez below from

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