6 CDO reps voted to impeach Merci, Benaldo absent

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 March) — Six of the seven members of the 15th House of Representatives who are based in this city voted to impeach Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez Monday evening with one of them to act as one of the prosecutors in the Senate impeachment hearings.

Rep. Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao, of Akbayan party list, has been chosen as a member of the House Prosecution team composed of 11 members of the House of Representatives.

1st District Rep. Benjo Benaldo was absent. Although serving as deputy majority floor leader, Benaldo has been openly close to the family of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his wedding godmother “ninang.”

2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Misamis Oriental 1st District Rep. Bambi Emano, Mis. Or. 2nd District Peter Unabia, Ating Koop party list Rep. Isidro Q. Lico and Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez voted in the affirmative in the historic vote to impeach the ombudsman.

Bag-ao was one of the principal endorsers of one of the impeachment complaints filed by Akbayan.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said that he believes that the complaint is strong and enough to impeach the Ombudsman in the Senate. A former law dean, he said that he would gladly assist by providing his legal ideas to the prosecution team but may decline if invited to be one of the prosecutors. “It would be very time consuming and I have already made several commitments to my constituents in Cagayan de Oro, Rodriguez told MindaNews.

Congress voted 212-46 during Monday’s nominal voting in the plenary of the House of Representatives. The vote to impeach the Ombudsman, many believe, is a vote to bring to justice the many scandals during the term of former President (now Pampanga Representative) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Calls and text messages to Benaldo were unanswered as of press time. Earlier, a staff of Unabia told MindaNews that the “UBE congressmen,” referring to the members of the PaDayon Pilipino members of the 15th Congress, voted to impeach Merci. UBE stands for Unabia, Benaldo and Emano. PaDayon is a breakaway of the PDP-Laban of Sen. Nene Pimentel. It is led by Mayor Vicente Emano.

Benaldo’s absence in the vote raised some eyebrows in his district. He has often been criticized for spending most of his time in Manila rather than in his district. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)