Why has soon-to-be-impeached Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez employed the services of lawyer Salvador Panelo?
Panelo has appeared before the media as the spokesperson of the embattled Ombudsman. He was also the lawyer of former Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos in the NBN-ZTE scandal which has resulted in the Ombudsman’s investigation of Abalos. The Ombudsman subsequently filed charges against Abalos before the Sandiganbayan. As of the time of the filing of case before the Sandiganbayan, Panelo remained the lawyer of Abalos.
Abalos was also implicated in the billion-peso Mega Pacific scam during his term as Comelec chair. This case was also investigated by the Ombudsman upon orders by the Supreme Court. Abalos (and everyone else for that matter) was eventually absolved by the Ombudsman of any criminal and civil liability despite findings of irregularity in the contract by the SC.
Now comes Merci, hiring the services of Panelo who is also the lawyer for someone the Ombudsman is supposed to be going after.
Conflict of interest? Definitely. Ethical issues? Surely. This raises questions on the kind of ethics and integrity the Ombudsman has. In her desperation to defend herself, she has abandoned the ethical standards that is expected of her as a public official.
No wonder she is being impeached.