Senator Chiz Escudero said with or without an impeachment case filed against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, an inventory of the pending cases filed before her office should immediately be made available.
Escudero said that he had already asked the Ombudsman for a list of cases pending in its office, but what she did was furnish him a list of those filed with the Sandiganbayan.
“What I wanted was a list of those pending, not those filed. Those cases that have gathered dust in her desk. Those that celebrate birthdays at the back burner. If we get that list, then we will know who among our colleagues have cases pending before her office, and from there we can determine whether that person should inhibit himself from the impeachment hearings,” he said.
The senator welcomed the filing of the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez, saying it would grant her the opportunity to fully answer all the questions being raised, not only in the impeachment complaint, but also the chance to respond to the nagging public perception that she is biased in favor of the appointing power.
Escudero said impeachment is the only legal, constitutional way of removing the Ombudsman from office.
“Another way is voluntary, which is resignation, a move she should have done a long time ago. But if she does not want to resign, then let the impeachment complaint against her take its course at the Lower House,' Escudero explained.
Asked whether Gutierrez can be compelled to take a leave while the complaint is pending, Escudero said it was also voluntary on her part since impeachment proceedings do not grant Congress the power to impose preventive suspension on the officials involved.
“We cannot compel her to take a leave. Delicadeza, nowadays, appears to have gone out of style. It’s really up to her. If she feels she has nothing to hide, then why not go on leave?” he said.
Section 3, paragraph 6, article XI of the constitution grants the senate "the sole power to try and decide" all impeachment cases. Senators sit as judges or jurors where they shall be first required to take an oath or affirmation to do impartial justice.
Moreover, the senate can promulgate its own rules on impeachment "to effectively carry out the purpose" laid down by the constitution. to date, the existing set of rules of the senate on impeachment does not provide for suspension of the official subject of the impeachment.
However, impeachment is a separate and independent case. Hence, the official impeached may be prosecuted, tried and punished in accordance with existing laws. #