Palace: Senate vote vs Gutierrez not easy | Inquirer News

Palace: Senate vote vs Gutierrez not easy

MANILA, Philippines—The Aquino administration has its work cut out for itself when the ruling coalition in the House of Representatives votes to send the articles of impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to the Senate for trial.

Less than two weeks after President Benigno Aquino III told his Liberal Party colleagues in the House that he was supporting Gutierrez’s impeachment, a Malacañang official acknowledged that it would not be easy to convince enough senators to vote for her removal from office.

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“It’s not in the bag,” Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Thursday night, four days before Monday’s House vote on whether to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

“You just can’t rubber-stamp it through,” Carandang said.

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Malacañang hopes the senators will see the merits of the case of betrayal of public trust against Gutierrez and see the need for deciding against someone who has allegedly become an obstacle to pursuing corruption cases against officials of the past administration, he said.

“That’s the way the impeachment process is. It’s both a legal and a political process,” Carandang said.

The requirement of having the numbers for conviction seems daunting for the administration. Under the Constitution, 16 votes are needed to successfully convict Gutierrez in the Senate.

LP senators, allies

Malacañang is initially banking on seven senators to support Gutierrez’s conviction. They are the four Liberal Party (LP) members—Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Teofisto Guingona III and Ralph Recto—and Mr. Aquino’s political allies, Francis Escudero, Sergio Osmeña III and Antonio Trillanes IV.

“We hope that they would support (Gutierrez’s) impeachment,” Carandang said.

He also expressed the hope that senators like Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party, who has long been engaging in anti-graft rhetoric, be consistent with their advocacy.

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Carandang won’t categorically say how Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his party mate in the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, would vote.

He did say that Enrile had been helping the Aquino administration in its programs.

Estrada’s father, former President Joseph Estrada, urged Mr. Aquino during the 25th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution to start filing corruption charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a representative of the second district of Pampanga.

“At the end of the day, the issue would be pursuing cases against Gloria,” Carandang said.

In the interview with the Inquirer editors, columnists and reporters, Carandang answered yes when asked if it was a deliberate move by the President to send the message to the public and to his allies in the House that the administration wanted Gutierrez impeached.

Judges not invited

The President’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, told the Inquirer staff that the senators were not invited to the lunch meeting in which Mr. Aquino announced before his LP allies that he was for the impeachment of Gutierrez.

“The senators were purposely not invited … because they would be senator-judges,” Lacierda said.

Other Malacañang officials who went to the Inquirer were the President’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte and Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III.

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TAGS: Congress, Government, Graft & Corruption, Impeachment, Politics
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