Press Release
March 30, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today challenged Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to assert her independence as the constitutional graft-buster by acting expeditiously on graft and plunder cases that have long been pending in her office, regardless of who they are.

Noting that these cases, many of which have already been thoroughly investigated by graft probers, are piling up and unless they are resolved and disposed of, Pimentel said this will only reinforce the prevailing apprehension that the Ombudsman is protecting the personalities involved in these cases, particularly those who are part of, or connected with the Arroyo administration.

He also urged Ombudsman Gutierrez to inform the public about the status of these cases, many of which were filed with that office many years ago such as the alleged $2 million extortion/bribery case involving a former Justice Secretary, the alleged diversion of P4 billion road users tax, the alleged diversion of P500 million overseas workers welfare fund, the P728 million fertilizer fund scam, and the P1.3 billion election computerization contract.

Pimentel issued the statement in the wake of the criticism of outgoing Overall Deputy Ombudsman Margarito Gervacio, Jr. that the Office of the Ombudsman has lost its prestige and independence since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office more than five years ago.

In a published statement, Gervacio has dared Ombudsman Gutierrez, who served as Mrs. Arroyos chief presidential legal counsel, to prove that she was not out to protect the President and her associates and allies by immediately resolving the cases involving former officials or associates of the present administration.

Unless the high-profile cases involving personalities known to be connected or close to the administration are resolved immediately, Pimentel said this will lend credence to the belief of Gervacio which is shared by a great number of the citizenry that the present Ombudsman is beholden to the Palace.

Pimentel expressed dismay that Ombudsman Gutierrez gave an evasive response when her attention was recently called upon by the Supreme Court on the need to speed up the resolution of the graft charges filed against top officials of the Commission on Elections who were involved in the fraudulent computerization deal.

At the same time, Pimentel expressed the hope that Ombudsman Gutierrez had the need for smooth and expeditious handling of graft cases and the paramount interest of due process and justice in mind when she issued Office Order 007 the subject of which was the review of all decisions, resolutions, issuances and orders to be issued by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Office Order 007, reads: To ensure the proper implementation of the mandate and policies of this Office, no decision, resolution, issuance or order on any case, interlocutory or otherwise, (i.e. preventive suspension, permit to travel, suspension of proceedings, etc.) shall be finalized, released or promulgated by any office unless previously reviewed and approved by the undersigned.

The order was issued by Gutierrez to the overall deputy ombudsman, special prosecutor, asst. ombudsmen and bureau directors.

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