Speaker lauds SC decision; assures Ombudsman of fair proceeding

SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. on Wednesday expressed elation over the Supreme Court’s decision to junk Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’s petition which sought to bar the House of Representatives from proceeding with her impeachment case.

“The High Court’s decision not only affirms the exclusive power of the House over impeachment cases; more importantly, it recognizes that in this particular case, the House has used its power judiciously and
fairly” the Speaker noted.

The members of the Court, voting 7 in favour and 5 against, with two justices partially concurring with the  majority and one abstaining, resolved that the Ombudsman’s right to due process was not violated when two impeachment complaints were simultaneously referred to the House Committee on Justice.  The majority of the Court held that such simultaneous referral resulted in only one impeachment proceeding.

The Constitution prohibits the initiation of more than one impeachment proceeding against the same official in a year.

“There is now no obstacle for the House of Representatives to proceed from where it left off,” the Speaker said, referring to the status quo ante order issued by the SC on 14 September 2010.  This order prevented the House Justice Committee from further discussing the impeachment complaints filed against the Ombudsman.  It also generated heated debate, with some House members calling for defiance against it.

The Speaker however prevailed upon House members to hold in abeyance action on the Ombudsman’s impeachment pending further action by the SC.  He also requested to intervene in the case, and defended the propriety of the impeachment proceedings conducted by the Committee on Justice. Analysts credited the Speaker’s actions which they said prevented the eruption of a constitutional crisis.

“The outcome of this case provides a compelling argument for sobriety and caution in resolving difficult matters, especially those which presumably put in conflict the great branches of our government,” the Speaker said.

Despite the victory, the Speaker assured the Ombudsman of a fair and impartial proceeding.  “The Honorable Ombudsman has nothing to fear. As our past actions show, we shall always act with great circumspection to safeguard her constitutionally guaranteed rights in the course of ferreting out the truth” he said.

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