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Impeached Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez
Impeached Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez

Now that Ombudsman Gutierrez has been impeached by the House by an overwhelming vote of 212 to 47, trial in the Senate would then “forthwith proceed.”

The die is cast, so to speak. We look now to the Senate, for our senators to perform their duties as judges in an impeachment trial. Unless, of course, Gutierrez succeeds in obtaining another TRO or status quo ante order from the Supreme Court, which is a remote possibility.

It behooves on us then to recall the relevant provisions of the Constitution on impeachment.

First, impeachment is anchored on the basic principle of accountability of public officers under Art. XI. Sec. 1 provides that:“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

Second, impeachable officers under Sec. 2 are the “President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman.”

Third, the grounds for impeachment under the same section are “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”

Fourth, it is the House that has “the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.” (Sec. 3, para. 1)

Fifth, it is the Senate in turn that has “the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment.” (Sec. 3, para. 6) Notably, “[w]hen sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath or affirmation.” (id.) In other words, each senator must act and decide on the case with utmost care and following the fundamental principles of justice and fair play—not political affiliation. For conviction of the person impeached, “the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate” is required. (Id.)

Sixth, “[j]udgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines, but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to prosecution, trial, and punishment, according to law.” (Sec. 7)

Now as to the charges against Gutierrez, she is mainly being alleged to have betrayed the public trust by failing to act on the Fertilizer fund scam, the Euro generals scandal, the Mega Pacific deal, the NBN-ZTE deal, and the Ensign Philip Pestaño case, among other cases pending before the Office of the Ombudsman. She is also being faulted for her alleged dismal performance given her low conviction record.


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