Umali, 6 other solons named as prosecutors in Ombudsman impeach case

MANILA—Confident that the impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will reach the Senate for trial, the House justice committee on Tuesday named Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali and six other lawmakers as members of the prosecution panel.

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the House justice committee, made the announcement shortly after the committee found “probable cause” to remove Gutierrez from her post for betrayal of public trust.

Tupas and Umali, who is vice chairman of the committee, expressed confidence the impeachment complaints will get the support of not less than 100 House members, more than the 94 votes required to send them to the Senate for trial.

Umali, who represents the second district of Oriental Mindoro, was named as among the seven House members who will compose the 11-member prosecution team. The other members are Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, Deputy Speaker Raul Daza, Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr., and partylist Representatives Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao of Akbayan and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna.

Tupas said he would be “honored to lead” the prosecution team even as he said it would be up to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. to decide on its final composition.

He said the 283-member House of Representatives in a plenary will affirm or reject the committee resolution.

“We have the duty to defend our decision in plenary and that could be on March 15 or 16,” said Tupas after the four-hour public hearing Tuesday.

Tupas stressed that the allegations contained in the complaints against Gutierrez are impeachable offenses.

The Ombudsman is accused of sitting on several high-profile graft cases, like her supposed failure to prosecute officials involved in the broadband deal scandal, the fertilizer scam, the Mega Pacific deal and the so-called Euro Generals case. Also cited is Gutierrez alleged inaction in the murder case of Navy Ensign Andrew Pestano.

Gutierrez, who was a no show during Tuesday’s House hearing, has denied the allegations.

The first complaint against Gutierrez received 39 votes, nine against with one abstention, while the second complaint got 39 votes , six against and one abstention. Minority leader Edcel Lagman cast the sole abstention in both complaints.

But while a complaint only needs 94 votes of House members to reach the Senate, it will need two-thirds vote in the upper chamber to convict an impeachable official like the Ombudsman.

One thought on “Umali, 6 other solons named as prosecutors in Ombudsman impeach case

  1. MANILA, Philippines – When the Ombudsman reversed last week her predecessor’s ruling dismissing the case against 10 Navy officers and charging them with murder in the supposed suicide of Philip Pestano 15 years ago, many hoped such reversal would finally unravel the truth.

    After all, Pestano’s family had maintained all these years the young Navy officer was shot dead–he didn’t shoot himself in the temple as an official report had claimed–because he was going to blow the whistle on contraband being loaded onto navy boats.

    On Wednesday, however, the 10 Navy officers implicated in the case of Pestano, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1993, turned the tables on the latter’s three classmates and the head of a medical corps for alleged cover-up and tampering of evidence in the alleged suicide of the young officer.

    Pestano’s lifeless body was found on September 27, 1995 inside his cabin aboard the BRP Bacolod City, with a bullet hole in the head.

    In a three-page complaint dated January 23, 2011 lodged before the office of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa, the officers accused Lt. Col. Felix Tayo of the Medical Corps and Cdrs. Joselito De Guzman and Romulo Vigilancia, both classmates of Pestano, of Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman, Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline, and Conduct Bringing Discredit Upon the Military Service.

    Earlier, in a 21-page decision dated January 10, 2010, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales believed there was “presence of conspiracy” to commit murder against Pestano after reviewing the evidence that led her to overturn the decision of her predecessor, Merceditas Gutierrez, dismissing the murder case filed by Pestano’s parents.

    Morales then ordered the filing of murder charges against Capt. Ricardo Ordonez, Lt. Cdr. Ruben Roque, Petty Officer 1st Class Carlito Amoroso and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Igcasan, all retired; and Commander Reynaldo Lopez and Lt. Cdr. Luidegar Casis, both of PMA Class of 1992; Lt. Cdrs. Alfrederick Alba Joselito Colico, of PMA Class of 1994; Hospital Man 2 Welmenio Aquino; and Machinery Repairman 2 Sandy Miranda, all still in active service.

    Their case landed at the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division.

    On January 24 2012, the officers filed an eight-page motion to quash by contesting some evidence presented in the murder case, particularly the alleged two gunshot wounds that Pestano sustained in the head.

    “There is only one gunshot wound self-inflicted by the deceased. The bullet entered the right temple and exited in the left side of the head. The exit wound is not considered another gunshot wound. This statement in the Information is misleading and deliberately deceiving. Thus, on this score alone, the Information should be quashed and the case should be dismissed,” they averred.

    Ordonez first broke his silence and insisted the Pestano case was suicide and linked his death to a problem about his relationship with women then, especially when one of his girlfriends, Djoanna Grace Yasay, filed an administrative complaint against him before the Philippine Fleet for breach of promise to marry which is punishable under the Articles of War.

    He was then the commander of the BRP Bacolod City.

    The six active officers were held in custody so they can voice out their side in accordance with military rules and regulations.

    As to the complaint they filed before the Office of the Chief of Staff, the officers claimed that Tayo, De Guzman and Vigilancia “willfully and deliberately acted and still continuously act in conspiracy with one another to cover up the real cause of the death of Pestano…” at their expense.

    They claimed that the complaint filed against Pestano could have pestered him as evidently showed by his suicidal tendencies before he committed suicide such as cutting his pulse on the wrist, hallucinating in broad daylight and even sleep-walking.

    “The unbearable problem of Pestano at the time he committed suicide is the administrative complaint filed against him by his first girlfriend because his rich parents, particularly his father, Felipe, also known as Don Pepe, do not approve of her religious beliefs. Pestano, being a dutiful son, obeyed his parents, broke with Ms. Yasay and entered into a relationship with another woman named Joann Doxi-Lim, whom his parents favor,” the officers claimed.

    They claimed Don Pepe allegedly “used influence, money, connections and vast resources” to ventilate the case of his son.

    “He was heard saying that he will not stop until the Navy officers pay with their own lives,” they said.

    “Don Pepe is a contractor/supplier of the Philippine Navy. He is a golfing buddy of ranking military and government officials. The Directors of his company (Philipp Sanctuary) are all Navy officers, namely: Magsino, Viola, Mendoza, Carlos, Togonon, Marcelo, Zuria, Ventura, Mulane and Galutera.”

    Before the alleged suicide, on Sept. 10, the officers claimed Pestano deliberately slashed his wrist “in an attempt to commit suicide.”

    “Two of his (Pestano’s) classmates, Ensigns Joselito De Guzman and Robert Clement Bosch, who were aware of his depressive mood took him from the BRP Bacolod City and brought him to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Southcom (Southern Command). Pestano’s wound was treated and sutured by Lt. Col. Felix Tayo assisted by nurse Mercy Cando. Thereafter he was referred to Lt. Col. Jose Del Rosario, a neuro psychiatrist and psychologist for examination.”

    They said De Guzman and Bosch did not inform Ordonez about Pestano’s medical treatment and neither did Del Rosario; Del Rosario also “did not recommend Pestano’s confinement to the hospital for his suicidal tendencies…”

    Bosch had availed an early retirement and was honorably discharged sometime after the Pestano’s death. He is reportedly living now in the United States.

    As to the possible culpability of Vigilancia, the officers alleged that after the suicide he “boarded the ship [and] took away Pestano’s two pillows which had blood and bone fragments.”

    “These pillows likewise contained illegal drugs belonging to Pestano for his personal use. Pestano confided to Ensign Alvin Parrone that he had taken drugs before going to bed on the night when he was observed to be sleep-walking.”

    Parrone died a year or so after Pestano’s death.

    Ensign Edwin Vigilar, another classmate of Pestano, “was the first person to board the ship and took Pestano’s body to the morgue,” and, “was the one who washed Pestano’s body and scrubbed his hands to remove the gunpowder residue.”

    Vigilar, also availed of early retirement and was honorably discharged from the service, and now reportedly lives in Canada. He is the son of former public works and highways secretary Gregorio Vigilar.


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