Impeachment complaint backed
HALF OF Filipinos, echoing the administration’s good governance
campaign, have backed moves to oust Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, who has been impeached early this week by the House
of Representatives, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.
The SWS survey, conducted from March 4 to 7 and made exclusive
to BusinessWorld, found 52% of respondents agreeing with the Supreme Court (SC) decision that allowed efforts of the
House of Representatives to oust Ms. Gutierrez from office.
Only 15% of respondents disagreed, 29% were undecided, while
4% refused to answer.
The high court on Feb. 15 lifted a stay order issued last September
that halted impeachment proceedings at the House.
Sought for comment, House justice committee chairman Niel C.
Tupas, Jr. (5th district), who steered the impeachment proceedings, said: "The results of the survey shows the overwhelming
support of the people to remove the Ombudsman from office. It will inspire us when we go to the Senate for trial."
"Survey shows that we are on the right track and have public
support," Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo C. Fariņas (1st district), vice-chairman of the committee, said in a text message.
A House contingent delivered the articles of impeachment to the
Senate on Wednesday.
The Senate, in turn, has decided to fast-track proceedings by
dispensing with the committee system and instead authorized the Office of the Senate President to give all senators copy of
the charge sheet preparatory to the Senate’s convening as an impeachment court when session resumes on May 9.
Congress held its last plenary session on Wednesday ahead of
the Holy Week break on March 26 to May 8.
The survey, meanwhile, also found that support for Ms. Gutierrez’
impeachment is higher in Metro Manila and class ABC, or the upper middle class.
Sixty-eight percent of the respondents in Metro Manila and 53%
in Balance Luzon agreed with the SC decision, while 47% in Visayas and 42% in Mindanao also threw in their support to the
high court ruling.
By class, six in 10 from class ABC backed the House action. Half
in class D supported the case, while only four in 10 from class E backed the court ruling.
The Ombudsman was also criticized by survey respondents for entering
into a plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller, retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, that allowed him to evade
non-bailable plunder charges over lesser offenses of direct bribery and facilitation of money laundering.
A large majority, or 83%, of Filipinos agreed that Mr. Garcia
should be charged with plunder, while only 15% disagreed.
The nationwide discontentment against the former top budget officer
of the military was seen in large majorities in all regions, or 85% in Balance Luzon; 84% in Metro Manila, 83% in Mindanao
and 79% in the Visayas.
By class, nine in 10 Filipinos from class ABC and eight in 10
from classes D and E believe that plunder charges should be filed against Mr. Garcia.
The survey was conducted after Congress has recommended to withdraw
the plea bargain deal, a request that has not yet been acted upon by the Ombudsman despite new testimonies and evidence presented
so far in congressional hearings.
The Ombudsman has only gone so far as to request the Sandiganbayan
to withhold ruling on the plea bargain deal, otherwise the government can no longer revive plunder case as it will be tantamount
to double jeopardy, or charging the accused for the same complaint that has already been settled.
On a related issue, the net satisfaction rating of Ms. Gutierrez
was at -9, unchanged from a similar rating last September during the initial stages of the impeachment proceedings.
Ms. Gutierrez’ trust rating was lowest at -22 in June 2009.
It was at its highest in June 2006 at +4.
The Ombudsman’s negative trust rating has been brought
about by bad publicity, Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus A. Micael said.
"The people’s perception of the Ombudsman is based on what
they see in the media. We don’t have mechanism for PR (public relations)...," he said in a phone interview yesterday.
-- Noemi M. Gonzales