Supreme Court to Continue with the Impeachment Proceedings vs. the Ombudsman

A few months back, blogger Megan Flores could only pray “OMG , Have mercy on us!” when Merceditas Gutierrez announced : “Like many constitutional officials, the Ombudsman has a fixed term and can be removed only by impeachment.”

That July 2010, A Sandiganbayan report released that in the first four months of 2010, the Office of the Ombudsman lost most of the cases it had filed in the anti-graft court.

According to the report, of the 98 cases resolved this year, 78 individuals were either acquitted or saw their cases dismissed. Between January and April, it resolved 62 cases involving 98 respondents. Only eight persons were convicted. The same report showed that 56 people were acquitted, while 22 people had their cases dismissed even before trial could start.

In short, to put it bluntly, if one will look at the reports, “Walang nagawa ang Ombudsman.”

PCIJ reported “only seven officials are serving time for corruption, out of 118 who had been prosecuted by the Ombudsman, convicted by the Sandiganbayan, and whose jail sentences had been upheld by the Supreme Court, since 1988. In truth, of these seven, the two officials holding the highest rank of office are barangay captains.”

Finally today, a 7-5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court denied the petition of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to stop impeachment process vs her. One justice abstained.

Many twitter users heaved a sigh of relief that finally, the Congress can proceed with the impeachment. @jimparedes encouraged everyone to “Wear PEACH if you want to Impeach Merceditas!”

Senator Kiko Pangilinan in a press statement , welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the impeachment case against the Ombudsman.

There was this growing perception that the Supreme Court was taking the cudgels for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whose administration has cases that have been gathering dust in the Ombudsman. We also welcome the decision as we believe that impeachment is a matter that falls exclusively within the jurisdiction of Congress, and that the Supreme Court should never have intervened in the first place. That the SC realized its mistake is a welcome development.

The failure of the Ombudsman to act swiftly on corruption cases have emboldened many to continue with their corrupt ways. The last thing we want is a Supreme Court that is perceived to be a stumbling block in the efforts to address pervasive corruption in government.

Risa Hontiveros, spokeperson for Akbayan also welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to reject Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’s petition to spare her from impeachment.

It is a step in the right direction in paving the way for the continuation of Congress’s impeachment proceedings and sends a strong signal that all corrupt and erring public officials under the new dispensation will have their day of reckoning. At a time when those who will benefit from the continuing deficiency of reforms and justice are apparently succeeding in blocking the people’s campaign against corruption, the decision is a welcome respite.

Certainly, dog days are over. The people’s call for accountability and justice has finally caught up with the formerly “untouchable” ombudsman.

However, the struggle to remove Gutierrez and reform the Office of the Ombudsman is far from over. The high tribunal’s decision is but a partial victory. It will only be complete and truly meaningful if Congress will take it upon itself to conclude this important task of removing her from public office, a task that is now placed on their hands.

Indeed, this is good news but unless Congress does not act on the impeachment proceedings, nothing will prosper. Congress must “resume the delayed impeachment hearings to hasten the process of exacting accountability and dispensing justice. ” The members of the 15th Congress must “muster the political confidence to support the process of removing an obviously inept public official, cross party lines and quench the people’s thirst for reforms and justice.”

Here is what the rest of Twitter are saying about the Supreme Court decision.

Now our prayers are almost answered. The hour of mercy has arrived.

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Blog Watch receives the “Best Story” Award for the First Data Journalism PH 2015 from the Open Knowledge Foundation and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism  for their story on “Aid Monitoring: Citizens’ Initial Efforts in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda” . Forbes Philippines also received the same award.

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