Merci bids farewell to officials, employees
- Michael Punongbayan () - May 5, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez yesterday bade farewell to officials and employees of the anti-graft agency urging them to support her successor in the fight against graft and corruption in government.

With voice trembling, Gutierrez said she did her best to lead the Office of the Ombudsman towards success but lamented she had to go in order to put the nation and her family’s interest over and above her own personal vindication.

“I regret that I’m leaving without finishing my term,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said she is thankful that she was given the opportunity to serve as head of the anti-graft agency even as its accomplishments are not given prominence in the media.

“I leave the office with a heavy heart and I will surely miss our friendship,” she said in Filipino.

Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit was teary eyed when she hugged Gutierrez, while Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus Micael read a prepared statement.

Officials and employees lined up to embrace Gutierrez or at least shake her hand for the last time as the song “I’ll never say goodbye” played in the background.

Each office or department was also allowed to offer video presentations and speeches thanking Gutierrez for her work during the last five years.

While some see her as a hindrance in President Aquino’s fight against graft and corruption, close associates called Gutierrez an “honorable and God-fearing” person whose “passionate and sincere leadership” makes her “the most honorable Ombudsman we ever had.”

“While some of us cannot fathom the wisdom of this unfortunate event, we respect your decision, ma’am, of opting for the better of few options. But if our sentiments count, we would have wanted you to stay,” Micael said, referring to how Gutierrez decided to resign from her post days before the Senate impeachment trial against her was about to begin.

“We know that humility is a virtue that the devil cannot imitate. When you entered hostile grounds and personally tendered your letter to the President, who has publicly branded you and the Office of the Ombudsman as the enemy, you exhibited that virtue of humility. It was an act of honor and dignity like a noble statesman, full of courage and grace like a true lady,” he said.

Gutierrez, the first woman Ombudsman of the country, will spend her last day in office on Friday, the day that her resignation is to take effect.

Even outside the halls of the Ombudsman, Gutierrez said she would continue the fight against corruption in government, even if it means invading social networking sites like Facebook.

She bared plans to take the fight on Facebook or a text messaging hotline to allow the public the means to communicate with her and act on cases to inform the next Ombudsman.

Much like her Magsumbong sa Ombudsman corner in the anti-graft agency’s website, her idea would mean launching a “Magsumbong sa Dating Ombudsman.”

“I just thought that I can still work for good governance and still continue my work to fight corruption by making myself available to our people,” she said.

Gutierrez also vowed to make herself available in the government’s fight against corruption, even if it means testifying against the one who appointed her to the office – former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“We are law abiding citizens. If I am subpoenaed, of course I will comply,” she told reporters in a short press briefing.

On the other hand, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) received the formal notice from Malacañang regarding the resignation of Gutierrez.

The one-page communication from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. would officially allow the eight-man council to start the selection process for the next Ombudsman.

The JBC office in the Supreme Court (SC) building in Manila received the letter only yesterday afternoon. An insider, however, revealed that the letter was earlier misplaced as it was received last Tuesday by another office in the SC.

The secretariat of the JBC said the official announcement of the vacancy and invitation for application and nomination carried in an advertisement in a major newspaper may be expected in the next few days. – With Edu Punay

DATING OMBUDSMAN DEPUTY SPECIAL PROSECUTOR JESUS MICAEL EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO OCHOA JR. FACEBOOK GUTIERREZ IF I OFFICE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN OMBUDSMAN
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