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House to submit articles of impeachment to Senate today

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives will transmit later today the 6 articles of impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to the Senate.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, vice-chairman of the House Justice Committee, said he and committee chairman Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas will bring the articles of impeachment to the Senate around 2:30 p.m., before the upper chamber starts session.

Fariñas and Tupas are among the congressmen-prosecutors in the impeachment trial expected to start once Congress returns to session on May 9.

Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said in an interview on GMA 7's State of the Nation on Tuesday that they will pass today the rules of procedure for the impeachmen trial.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules, said a number of amendments have been introduced to the rules, derived from the same ones used in the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada in 2000-2001. Estrada’s impeachment trial was the first in the country’s history.

Sotto said the prosecution in the impeachment trial of Gutierrez would have to prove guilt in only one article of impeachment to remove her from office, based on the proposed rules of the Senate.

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To be acquitted, Gutierrez would have to secure acquittal on all six articles of impeachment, Sotto added.

Under the proposed Senate Resolution No. 432 or the rules on the impeachment trial, “if the person impeached in such articles by the votes of two-thirds of all the members, the Senate shall proceed to pronounce judgment of conviction…”

“If the impeachment shall not, upon any of the articles presented, be sustained by the votes of two-thirds of all the members, a judgment of acquittal shall be entered.”

Sotto said a total of 16 votes would be needed to convict the Ombudsman.

Meanwhile, Estrada said that several senators have junked Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago's "gag order" proposal.

"Mayroong mga reservations ang ibang mga senador sapagkat ang nakalagay sa mga recommendations ni Senator Miriam, dapat habang nasa hearing hindi puwedeng mag-telepono, hindi puwedeng mag-Facebook, mag-tweet, o magpa-interview sa media," the senator said, adding that some senators want to have a chance to explain to the public their actions during the trial.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has said that "media distractions" will not be allowed during the trial proper. He said senators can be interviewed before and after the trial.

Estrada, meanwhile, assured impartiality during the impeachment trial against Gutierrez. He said that he will base his decision on the evidence that will be presented by the prosecution and defense panels during the trial.

Enrile had said that some members of the Senate Blue-Ribbon Committee may be asked to inhibit from the trial for releasing a committee report that recommends the filing of an impeachment complaint against Gutierrez for bungling the plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Estrada, who was one of the signatories of the committee report, said that he "never uttered" about the impeachment trial during the committee's hearings.

"I never said that I was for the impeachment, or against the impeachment against Ombudsman Gutierrez," the senator said.

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