At 6 pm GMT, President Benigno S. Aquino III issued this statement on national television:
Tonight I can report to the Filipino people and the world that we conducted an operation that at 10.20 a.m., Friday April 29 2011, took down Merceditas Gutierrez as Ombudsman.
For the last number of years Gutierrez has been responsible for the slow pace of investigations against dishonest officials. This resulted directly and indirectly in suffering to Filipinos, images that for the most part were unseen to the nation. It also resulted in the spread of corruption in this country.
During this time erring high officials escaped prosecution and continued to operate indiscriminately outside the law. The Office of the Ombudsman became the symbol that dishonesty goes unpunished.
When I took office, I resolved to bring these officials to justice, to take away their safe haven.
I made the ouster of Gutierrez my number one priority.
Yet she avoided prosecution and continued to operate unabashedly even as we sought to disrupt, dismantle and defeat her network.
Last August I was briefed on possible leads on the legal whereabouts of Gutierrez and evidence that could prove crucial to taking her down.
The outcome was far from certain and it took many months to run this thread to the ground. I met repeatedly with intelligence officials to ascertain the strength and veracity of our information.
Last month I determined we had enough evidence to take action. On my direction, I authorized a targeted operation against the Ombudsman with instructions to minimize collateral damage. After a firefight in Congress, an elite team of dedicated House Representatives successfully implemented action that led to the filing of impeachment charges against her at the Senate. Fortunately no Congressmen were harmed in the engagement.
Gutierrez continued to publicly profess her innocence, vowing to fight to the end.
However, within days of the start of the impeachment proceedings, Gutierrez offered me her resignation.
I immediately called House Speaker Belmonte and Rep. Tupas, Jr. to advise them of this fact and to thank their colleagues’ courage on behalf of Filipinos.
The ouster of Gutierrez is the single most significant achievement in our fight against corruption. It allows us to revive cases that for all intents were buried at sea.
The outcome is welcome to all those of us who seek human dignity and equality for all. However, her resignation does not mean an end to corruption nor to her prosecution.
The cause of securing our nation is not complete. We must and will remain vigilant against the scourge of evil that, even as I speak, continues to threaten our security and well being as a nation.
Let me reiterate that Filipinos are not at war against public officials most of whom do an honest day’s work in service of the community.
What we are and shall be is relentless against the corrupt among them. Filipinos did not choose this fight. It came to our shores.
As a country we will never allow ourselves to be threatened by those who wish us harm. I will do whatever it takes to defend our citizenry while remaining true to the values that make us who we are.
Today justice has been done.
For this I would like to thank those who undertook this dangerous mission. Many of them will remain unnamed but they can be satisfied in their mission accomplished.
To the families who through these years have suffered from corruption in one form or the other, we have not forgotten your loss.
To all Filipinos, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed when we overthrew our corrupt leaders. This unity, I know, has at times frayed. However, that we were able to stand strong against tyranny is testament to our greatness and determination as a people. Let us reaffirm our ties to each other, our commitment to our common cause.
Let us remind ourselves that as Filipinos we can do whatever we set our minds to do. This is the story of our nation.
We can do these things not because of wealth or power but because we are who we are, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you all, may God bless this country of ours.”
(Author’s Note: If the above appears to borrow heavily from another recent much publicized statement, it has.)