On 29 April 2011, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned rather than face impeachment. The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, the largest organization of human rights lawyers in the Philippines, on that same day issued a press release. Here it is:

NUPL welcomes resignation of Gutierrez, challenges Pnoy to prosecute Arroyo

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), one of the parties in the impeachment complaint, today welcomed the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

“As one of the complainants, lawyers and private prosecutors, NUPL is glad and relieved with the resignation of the Ombudsman. It once again demonstrates the power of vigilance and grim determination that sovereignty must reside in the people and that public office must always be a public trust,” said lawyer Edre U. Olalia, who represented NUPL in the complaint.

Atty. Olalia also refused to call the Ombudsman’s resignation as an act of sacrifice.”In leaving office she said that her loyalty is to the Filipino people. But the charges against her is precisely ‘betrayal of public trust’, and we were ready to prove that in the proper proceedings,” he said. “This is hardly a graceful exit when public opinion is heavily against her, and she has desisted from one of the legal venues to decide the case on its merits.”

He also challenged the present administration to pursue the root charges in the impeachment case. NUPL sought Gutierrez’s impeachment because of her inaction on and mishandling of cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and officials. “Now PNoy’s 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 has left in place.” He said that one of the best steps would be to appoint an Ombudsman who will fairly and squarely investigate charges against officials of the previous administration.

NUPL lawyer Rey B. Cortez said the resignation of Gutierrez will certainly hasten the prosecution of Arroyo and her allies. “However, whether she will be actually charged for graft or not is another thing. This requires a positive act from the government.”

"So far, except for the tax evasion case against Mikey Arroyo, no charge has yet been filed by the government against the former president Arroyo for graft and violations of human rights during her nine-year term. The cases that have been filed against her were upon initiative of private individuals and people’s organizations,” said Atty. Cortez.

The NUPL in April filed the first known civil case against Arroyo and top-ranking officials, for damages in the illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, and torture of the health workers arrested in Morong, Rizal. The Aquino government withdrew charges against the so-called Morong 43 in December 2010.

NUPL, the country’s largest association of human rights lawyers, represents several other victims of rights violation under Arroyo’s time. “We will continue as lawyers of the people to do our part to prosecute and fight impunity,” said Atty. Olalia. #

Reference: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary - General (09175113373)

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