EXPLANATION OF VOTE ON THE MATTER OF THE IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST OMBUDSMAN GUTIERREZ

HON. LORENZO R. TAÑADA III

EXPLANATION OF VOTE
ON THE MATTER OF THE IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS
AGAINST OMBUDSMAN GUTIERREZ

I vote against the Committee’s determination of the insufficiency in substance of the impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Gutierrez. I believe the facts as set forth in the complaint clearly point to her having violated her constitutional duties and betrayed the public’s trust.
The peculiar position occupied by the office of the Ombudsman in our government serves to make its effectiveness dependent upon the trust and confidence reposed upon it by the people. Given the delicate nature of its authority, to allow even a hint of doubt as to its integrity casts a shadow over the entire government. The Ombudsman is supposed to watch public officials in behalf of the Filipino people; this is the reason why it was given constitutional independence. Once the Ombudsman’s integrity is called into question, however, our entire system of accountability is compromised. As the sole constitutional body with the power to hold the Ombudsman accountable, Congress would thus be remiss if it does not allow the impeachment proceeding to continue—if only to dispel these allegations, if ever they are indeed baseless. The haste with which the hearings were conducted at the committee level precluded a conscientious investigation into the substance of the complaint, leaving much unturned and unanswered. To abandon the process now would be detrimental not just to the people, for leaving their Ombudsman with a besmirched reputation, but to the accountability exacted by the impeachment process itself.
The charges against the Ombudsman are no mere trifles; at the very least we should inquire more assiduously after the facts and allow the officer to account for questions relating to her performance of duty. A cloud has been cast over this most sacred of offices, and in exercising our vote today, we either choose to let it fester in the muddied depths of disrepute or usher it back into the public’s confidence.
We must be reminded that each impeachment proceeding sets a precedent for the standard of accountability that we demand of our public officers. “Trust”, “duty”, “fidelity”: these are abstract concepts; but we make them real and bring them into operation each time we rule upon a complaint. More than just political exercises, impeachment proceedings are really progressive attempts to answer the question, ‘how trustworthy must our public officers be, how faithful, how true?’
I myself choose to exact from the Ombudsman’s office a standard of utmost trustworthiness and absolute fidelity, and for this reason, my vote is a NO against the recommendations of the Committee on Justice.

Thank you.

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