MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE 3) The Supreme Court gave the green light Tuesday for the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Voting 7-5-2, the high court threw out Gutierrez? petition ?thereby effectively allowing the House committee on justice to proceed with the impeachment,? court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said.
Gutierrez is being accused of betrayal of public trust and ?culpable violation? of the Constitution due to her alleged inaction on several high-profile graft cases during the Arroyo administration.
The hearings, however, were suspended when the high tribunal, acting on a petition of Gutierrez, issued a status quo ante order last September.
In lifting the order, the court dismissed Gutierrez?s argument that there was a violation of the Constitution when the House committee heard two impeachment complaints against her. Article XI Section 3 (5) provides that ?no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.?
?While the complaint has been filed separately, on different dates, it has been referred at the same time to the House committee on justice and there is one proceedings on the two complaint,? Marquez said.
Former Senate President Jovito Salonga and other civil society leaders in March 2009 filed the first case against Gutierrez. They accused the Ombudsman of gross violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust when she sat on several graft cases during the Arroyo administration.
The House committee dismissed the complaint in September 2009 due to insufficiency in form.
But another impeachment case was able to pass its first hurdle when the House committee approved it in both form and substance. Gutierrez argued it violated the constitutional limit on impeachment cases that could be filed against a public official in one year.
The high court said there was ?no violation of due process? because the Ombudsman could still file an answer before Congress even after it found the impeachment complaint as sufficient in form and substance.
The complainants ? who include Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Sister Mary John Mananzan of Pagbabago, Danilo Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, lawyer Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples? Lawyers, Ferdinand Gaite of Courage, and James Terry Ridon of the League of Filipino Student ? cited the following grounds why Gutierrez should be impeached:
? Failure promptly act on cases filed against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, and other officials linked in the botched national broadband network deal;
? Inexcusable delay in the investigation on the death of Ensign Philip PestaŮo, a case that even the United Nations Commission on Human Rights concluded as homicide;
? Failure to look into the P1-million dinner for the presidential entourage at the Le Cirque restaurant in New York;
? Repeated failure to take prompt action on various cases involving Arroyo, such as the Mega-Pacific scam, among others; and
? Refusal to grant ready access to public records such as the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of former Pampanga representative Juan Miguel Arroyo.
The Supreme Court justices who voted for the continuation of the impeachment proceedings are Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Jose Mendoza, Roberto Abad, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Antonio Eduardo Nachura, and Martin Villarama.
Chief Justice Renato Corona, and Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin, Teresita Leonardo De Castro, and Diosdado Peralta dissented.
Concurring in part were Associate Justices Mariano Del Castillo and Jose Perez, who both said that while the second impeachment complaint might be prohibited under the Constitution, ?there is no hindrance for Congress to proceed with the first impeachment complaint to proceed,? Marquez said.
Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco inhibited from the case because his son is a member of Congress.