Opposition lawmaker sees long impeachment trial | Inquirer News

Opposition lawmaker sees long impeachment trial

/ 04:24 AM April 04, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—An opposition lawmaker Sunday ruled out the possibility that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez would be convicted before her retirement in December 2012 in the Senate impeachment trial scheduled to begin next month.

But the House prosecution team is optimistic that it would wrap up the impeachment case against Gutierrez between June and October because senators would not allow the trial to drag on and affect their congressional duty.

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“The longer it takes, the better it is for Merci,” Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said amid talk that Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would want Gutierrez to resign to avoid a full media coverage of corruption charges against the former president.

Gutierrez has been impeached for betrayal of public trust for her alleged inaction on scandals involving Arroyo, such as the fertilizer scam and the NBN-ZTE deal.

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Suarez said “everybody knows” that the prosecution team led by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the House justice committee chair, would want to “stretch out” the trial as long as possible because it would provide an “excellent launch pad” for a senatorial run in 2013.

“Merci is a big girl, she knows what is good for her. If issues about the past administration are unraveled, then so be it,” Deputy Minority Leader and Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said in a text message.

No dilatory tactics

“Of course, the former President would want to avoid a conviction against Merci because it would lay down the (basis for the) legal charges against her,” said Magsaysay, a staunch Arroyo ally.

Tupas and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas scoffed at Suarez’s view and predicted that the trial would end in five months.

“The probability is the trial will be finished within the year, long before the retirement of the impeached Ombudsman. The panel of prosecutors is just performing its constitutional duty,” Tupas said.

In a text message, Fariñas also dismissed Suarez’s forecast as nothing more than a “wish.”

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“Congress, both prosecutors and judges, has to finish the impeachment trial before the budget deliberations and approval from September to October. The Senate will not tolerate any dilatory tactics that would jeopardize its legislative calendar,” Fariñas said in a text message.

Prosecution team

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares was more optimistic and expected their work would be done by June 25, noting that the trial was a battle against corruption and not for 2013.

Colmenares said the prosecution team was keen to make the trial as “expeditious as possible so that justice will no longer be delayed for farmers and the Filipino people, particularly on the cases Gutierrez sat on.”

“As for Arroyo, we will definitely pursue the cases against her,” Colmenares said in a text message.

Only eight of the 11-member prosecution team have been identified. They are Tupas, Fariñas, Colmenares, Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol “Magi” Gunigundo, Akbayan party-list Rep. Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao and Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

Tupas said the prosecution team would tap new law graduates and experienced and good lawyers to beef up its research and trial strategy.

“No big-time private lawyers so far on the list,” he said.

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TAGS: Congress, Impeachment, Politics
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