FORMER Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros asked Malacanang to clarify its position on the term of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez after Palace counsel Eduardo De Mesa said that Gutierrez’s tenure expires in 2012.

Hontiveros said De Mesa’s statement contradicts President Benigno Aquino III’s previous announcements on the Ombudsman as well as its anti-corruption initiative.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

“I hope this is just a slip-up on their part and is not in any way part of their official policy on how they will deal with the Ombudsman,” said Hontiveros, who filed an impeachment complaint to Gutierrez.

“This must be clarified immediately. They are giving the impression that they are now okay with Gutierrez. Unless they want to send mixed signals to the public, it is best they clarify this right away and correct the error,” she added.

Two impeachment cases

Hontiveros, together with Retired Brigadier General Danilo Lim and Evelyn and Felipe Pestaño -- parents of Phillip Andrew Pestano, a deceased Philippine Navy Ensign who allegedly had knowledge about the involvement of Navy officials in illegal activities -- filed an impeachment complaint against Gutierrez.

Another case was filed by progressive groups at the House of Representatives this week and was endorsed by Bayan Muna party-list Representatives Walden Bello and Teddy Casino, raising the question which of the two will be heard by the House Justice Committee.

The Committee on Justice, chaired by Representative Niel Tupas, Jr. (fifth district, Iloilo), has adopted the impeachment rules of the 14th Congress where there is no prohibition on consolidation of cases.

"The committee will take cognizance of the first complaint that will be referred to it by the House," Tupas told Sun.Star.

But he quickly noted that amendments may still be considered by the committee and that consolidation could be the solution if both cases are referred at the same time.

For his part, Representative Neri Colmenares said: "Wala kasi sa rules na bawal consolidation. A complaint is initiated upon the filing and referral to the plenary, sabi ng Supreme Court at ng justice committee mismo noong 2008 pa."

Colmenares was referring to the impeachment complaints filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 where House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman was the vice chair of the justice committee.

The complaint filed by Marcos lawyer Oliver Lozano was dismissed due to lack of merit.

Hontiveros' group is meanwhile open to consolidation of cases with the other group as long as the complaint is "credible".

Arroyo, who made the appointment of Gutierrez, is still mum on the impeachment cases.

"We still don't know what the impeachment complaint is all about. It is very early to comment at this time," Arroyo's spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn told Sun.Star.

On Palace recognition to Corona

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court welcomed the categorical recognition of Malacanang in the appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona as head magistrate of the Supreme Court.

Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said Corona is elated by the Palace position, as it confirmed the “solid legal ground” on which the SC anchored its ruling on the high court's exemption from the ban on midnight appointments.

The SC ruling paved the way for former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo to appoint Corona.

“The categorical recognition is always welcome and appreciated even if there have be implied acknowledgments in the past,” said Marquez in a text message.

Marquez was referring to at least two instances when the President addressed Corona as chief justice – during the “Red Mass” for the judiciary held at the Manila Cathedral on July 7 and in his first State of the Nation Address last July 26.

During Aquino’s inauguration last June 30, however, he did not directly address Corona and simply made a sweeping greeting to members of the SC.

He also did not picked Corona to administer his oath but instead asked Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to do the honors.

Morales was the lone dissenter in the March 28 decision of the SC allowing Arroyo to pick out the successor of then retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Corona was appointed by Arroyo to the top judicial post a day before Puno was supposed to step down upon reaching the mandatory age of retirement last May 17. (Kathrina Alvarez/JCV/Sunnex)