Press Release
June 30, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said he is willing to give Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez the benefit of the doubt on her claim that her office may need more time to wrap up its probe into the graft charges against officials of the Commission on Elections in connection with the P1.3 billion poll automation contract awarded to the MegaPacific in preparation for the 2004 elections.

Pimentel was reacting to the statement of Gutierrez that the Ombudsman may not be able to meet the June 30 deadline imposed by the Supreme Court for resolving the case and determining the criminal culpability of the Comelec officials as well as private individuals who were involved in the deal.

It might be true that the Ombudsman needs time to finish her investigation of the alleged irregularities in the MegaPacific deal. Perhaps granting her a non-extendible period of two months to do her job would go a long way towards giving the Comelec officials, who may be liable, their comeuppance, he said.

In her explanation to the high tribunal, Gutierrez said that the Ombudsmans Office of Legal Affairs had found sufficient grounds for the conduct of further investigation to determine any criminal liability on the part of the Comelec officials who approved and facilitated the contract for the purchase of 1,961 units of automated vote counting machines and satellite transmission facilities.

Earlier, Pimentel urged the Ombudsman to comply with the directive of the Supreme Court to resolve by June 30 this year the graft charges against officials of the Commission on Elections who approved the poll automation contract.

Pimentel debunked Gutierrezs protestation that the high tribunals rejection of her appeal to reconsider its directive could trigger a constitutional crisis and undermine the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman.

What constitutional crisis? Since when has a Supreme Court order to a subordinate official been the cause of a constitutional crisis? I am sorry to disagree with the Ombudsman in this regard, he said.

The minority leader said there was nothing unreasonable about the SCs order which was meant to expedite the resolution of the case, which he filed with the Ombudsman shortly after the high court voided the MegaPacific contract on January 13, 2004 due to legal infirmities.

The Supreme Court reminded the Ombudsman that as protector of the people, it was mandated to act promptly on all complaints filed in any form or manner against any public official or employee of the government. Pimentel said there is nothing in the courts order that would undermine the independence of the Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Gutierrez probably thinks that because hers is a constitutional office, the Supreme Court cannot order her to expedite cases under investigation by her office. I think that she is in error here because if the Supreme Court can nullify acts of Congress or of the President, who are constitutional officials, and sometimes order the performance of positive acts, there is no reason why the Supreme Court cannot order the Ombudsman to do something to attain the ends of law, Pimentel said.

He disagreed with Ombudsman Gutierrezs contention that the Supreme Courts directive was tantamount to intrusion in its judicial independence since the tribunal merely told the Ombudsman to decide on the case within a given time-frame and did not in anyway suggest how it should decide on the case.

As the high court said in turning down the Ombudsmans motion for reconsideration: Nowhere in the questioned resolution did the court demand that the Ombudsman decide or make specific determination one way or the other of the culpability of any of the parties. Our directive was for the Ombudsman to report its final determination on whether a probable cause exists against any of the public officials and conspiring public individuals, if any.

Pimentel said the Ombudsmans resolution of the case is long overdue since it has dragged on for more than two years now and it had been exhaustively investigated by graft probers of the anti-graft body during the time of Gutierrezs predecessor, Simeon Marcelo.

News Latest News Feed