Ombudsman open to dialogue with Aquino
By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez expressed openness to a dialog with President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, saying she shared his goal of clamping down on corruption.
Gutierrez, known to be close to the Arroyo administration, said she “will be privileged” to meet with Mr. Aquino and “discuss with him areas of cooperation” in the new administration’s governance reform efforts.
“It has been my position that we in government should work in a systematic cadence so that we’ll be able to build a stronger force against corruption and form a powerful shield against the spread of this dreaded disease in the bureaucracy,” Gutierrez said in a statement.
She said she would give Mr. Aquino a rundown of her accomplishments as the Ombudsman, an update on pending high-profile cases and her anti-corruption program.
While dodging resignation calls and facing impeachment when Congress opens this month, Gutierrez said in a statement that she and Mr. Aquino “share a common vision for the country: to make it graft-free.”
Mr. Aquino has said he was willing to talk to Gutierrez while reiterating that she had been remiss in her duties as Ombudsman.
Gutierrez said also that Aquino’s statement about his willingness to meet with her did not constitute Palace “interference” in the affairs of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body.
“Personally, I will not take it as interference. We both have common goals, one of which is to eradicate corruption in the country,” she said.
Gutierrez has often been criticized for her office’s slow resolution of cases against officials accused of irregularities during the administration of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, among them the P728-million fertilizer fund scam and government’s allegedly overpriced $329 million telecommunication’s agreement with the Chinese company ZTE Corp.
She was a law school classmate of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, himself implicated in alleged government anomalies.
Gutierrez, however, maintained that she would stay in office and sought fairness from the public, saying she must not be judged as an Ombudsman on the basis of her ties to the Arroyos.
Calling critics “purveyors of wrong information,” Gutierrez said detractors should first read her decisions and resolutions before passing judgment on her work.