Lawyers eager to join Merci trial
- Paolo Romero () - April 5, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Dozens of veteran and young lawyers are volunteering to join the House of Representatives legal team that will prosecute the case of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in the Senate, a House leader said yesterday.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who is one of the lawmakers picked to be a member of the House prosecution team, disclosed that the prosecution panel might get assistance from at least 10 private lawyers to help in the impeachment trial of Gutierrez at the Senate for betrayal of public trust.

“There are many lawyers, even those who have just graduated and passed the Bar, who volunteered to help the prosecution team because they think this is a case for the Filipino people,” Fariñas, vice chairman of the House justice committee, told The STAR.

Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas, however, doubted Fariñas’ claim that many lawyers have volunteered to join the prosecution team, saying that any lawyer worth his or her salt would know that Gutierrez’s impeachment was railroaded and that the charges against her are weak.

“I doubt if that claim is true. If they (lawyers) scrutinized the arguments of the Ombudsman, they would not be volunteering,” Cagas said.

Aside from Fariñas, also elected by the chamber before it adjourned last month to become members of the prosecution team were Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the House committee on justice.

Tupas, whose father former Iloilo governor Niel Tupas Sr. was charged by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan for graft, is expected to head the prosecution team.

Fariñas said five more names have been proposed to fill up the 11-man prosecution panel, namely Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Cavite Rep. Jose Emilio Abaya, Akbayan Rep. Arlene Bag-ao, and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.

The lawmakers are expected to be elected to the panel when the House resumes session on May 9.

Those initially tapped to be members of the prosecution team, like Deputy Speaker and Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, are reportedly having second thoughts due to pressing work in their respective congressional districts.

There were also reports that private lawyers from Tupas’ former law firm — Belo Gozon Elma Parel Asuncion & Lucila Law Offices — would be tapped to assist the House prosecution team.

Fariñas said other private lawyers could be tapped and that he would bring in legal experts from the Ateneo Law School.

“Some (private lawyers) would be seniors, some would be young ones, others would be our resource persons,” he said.

AKBAYAN REP ARLENE BAG ATENEO LAW SCHOOL BAYAN MUNA REP BELO GOZON ELMA PAREL ASUNCION CAVITE REP FARI LAWYERS PROSECUTION REP TEAM
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