MANILA, Philippines?Another impeachment case has been filed against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, this time involving a dead Navy ensign, a former chief of the Scout Rangers, a pricey dinner in New York, and her own ?dismal? track record in going after wrongdoers.
The case is the first complaint to be filed against Gutierrez under President Benigno Aquino III?s administration. It is the second attempt to unseat her.
Former Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, former Scout Rangers chief Danilo Lim, and Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño, the parents of the late Ensign Philip Pestaño, led the filing of the complaint with the House of Representatives? secretary general Thursday.
They charged Gutierrez with betraying the public trust and violating the Constitution with her ?dismal and unconscionably low? conviction rate; failing to act swiftly on the cases filed against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies in connection with the scrapped National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China?s ZTE Corp.; ?inexcusably? delaying the inquiry into the death of Ensign Pestaño in 1995; failing to investigate Arroyo?s P1,000,000 dinner in New York; upholding the legality of Hontiveros? arrest in 2006, supposedly in violation of the Revised Penal Code; failing to allow access to public officials? statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs); and delaying actions on cases involving official abuse and corruption.
To right wrongs
Lim, who is out on bail on mutiny charges, said he hoped for wrongs to be corrected, but added that this could only take place if the Ombudsman did what she was supposed to do.
?The people who have done this country great wrong are not behind bars. They are out there enjoying their foul lives to the fullest, unfettered and unrestrained. I look forward to the day when the innocent are declared innocent and the real culprits are made accountable for their acts,? Lim told reporters.
?This will only happen if we have an Ombudsman who does her duty,? he said.
Hontiveros said her arrest during a women?s rights rally in 2006 was clearly incorrect but the Ombudsman still dismissed her complaint against the police.
The petitioners also said Gutierrez?s failure to act quickly on the cases involving the NBN-ZTE deal indicated either incompetence or deliberate accommodation on her part.
They said she also delayed action on other graft and corruption cases.
Evelyn Pestaño said her family continued to pursue the investigation of her son?s death because he himself was concerned for the nation.
Philip Pestaño?s death at 23 on a ship in transit from Cavite to the Navy headquarters in Manila remains shrouded in mystery.
The Navy pronounced it a suicide but his parents think otherwise, pointing out that his death came after he told them of his discovery that his ship carried a large cargo of the illegal drug methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).
The Pestaño couple had asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate their son?s death. Then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo reopened the case, but after he resigned in 2005 and was replaced by Gutierrez, the case languished in the files.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHCR) has declared that the Philippine government violated its obligation to uphold international human rights covenants by sitting on Philip Pestaño?s case, the petitioners observed.
?As stated by the UNHCR, the delay amounted to a violation of the Pestaños? human right to an effective remedy. This clearly amounts to a dereliction of duty on the part of the Ombudsman, amounting to a betrayal of public trust,? they said in the complaint.
Le Cirque dinner
The petitioners said Gutierrez committed a disservice to the people by refusing to look into the P1-million dinner enjoyed by then President Arroyo and her allies at Le Cirque in New York.
It was Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello who had raised questions on the legality or impropriety of the dinner and sought the inquiry.
The petitioners also claimed that Gutierrez had performed dismally since 2008.
They cited a report from the Transparency and Accountability Network stating that in the first half of 2008, the Ombudsman?s conviction rate dropped to 14.43 percent from 55 percent. Another report also showed that in the first four months of 2010, the conviction rate was 12.9 percent.
?The low conviction rates achieved by the Ombudsman?roughly 1 in 10 cases actually leads to a conviction?indicates a level of competence far below that which can be reasonably expected by the public from an anti-graft body,? the petitioners said.
They also charged Gutierrez with withholding public documents, citing her purported refusal to grant Hontiveros access to the SALN of then Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, the eldest child of the then President.
The Office of the Ombudsman, through its spokesperson Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus Jr., declined to comment pending receipt of a copy of the complaint.
?What we can assure the public is that we will respond point by point to all the allegations once we get an official copy from Congress and are made to answer,? De Jesus said. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza