By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Progressive groups welcomed the resignation of Merceditas Gutierrez as ombudsman, calling it the outcome of vigilance and the determination to hold officials accountable.
Gutierrez submitted a one page resignation letter to President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday morning, which Aquino accepted. The resignation will take effect on May 6, days before the senate convene as impeachment court on May 9.
In a text message to Bulatlat.com, Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), one of the complainants, the members of which are part of the group of lawyers and private prosecutors to the impeachment case, said, “NUPL is glad and relieved when we heard about Gutierrez’s resignation. It once again demonstrates the power of vigilance and grim determination and shows that sovereignty must reside in the people and that public office must always be a public trust.”
In a statement, Renato Reyes, Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general, said that “in a way, Gutierrez’s resignation shows the strength of the allegations and evidence against her.”
Fr. Joe Dizon, spokesperson of the Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change said that justice can only be realized if Gutierrez will be made to account for her inaction on the many cases of corruption and human rights abuses committed by the administration of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“This was not answered by her resignation although it opens up a fresh opportunity to pursue her prosecution before a new Ombudsman that will replace her,” Dizon said.
Bayan and Pagbabago! are also complainants to the impeachment case against Gutierrez. The first three cases that would have been taken up on the impeachment trial are cases filed by Bayan et. al.
In another statement Kilusang Mayo Uno’s chairman Elmer “Bong” Labog also said,“Gutierrez should still face trial for the crimes which she committed against the Filipino workers and the people during her tenure as Ombudsman.”
Challenge to Aquino
The next big challenge for Aquino, said Dizon, is to find someone with an irrefutable integrity and unblemished track record to replace Gutierrez.
“The next Ombudsman should not only go after his or her predecessor but, more importantly, should also take up again the various crimes against the people committed by Gutierrez’s patron – Mrs. Gloria Arroyo”, Dizon said.
Reyes said Arroyo should be next to be held accountable.
“We will continue the fight for accountability of public officials. There is yet no closure in the fertilizer fund scam or other major cases of corruption under the Arroyo government. We hope to see the next ombudsman take on these cases and file the necessary plunder charges. The next Ombudsman should also look into the human rights cases long gathering dust at the office,” Reyes added.
For his part, Olalia said, “Now that the Aquino government must start rolling up its sleeves and doggedly run after the plunderers and human rights violators that have until now hidden behind the layers of protection that Arroyo left in place.”
Although the groups deem the resignation of Gutierrez as a positive development, Dizon said, the people should remain vigilant in the coming days and continue to monitor the developments as he warned that “political compromises” may have been involved in the unexpected turn of event.
Dizon pointed out: “We just have to be cautious. Gutierrez used to be very adamant about not resigning and nobody saw this (resignation) coming. What did she tell Pres. Aquino when she gave her resignation letter? We have to remain vigilant”
KMU’s Labog said that if Gutierrez will not be tried by the new Ombudsman, Gutierrez’s dialogue with Aquino this morning will be viewed with suspicion by Filipino workers and the people.