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JBC votes today on Ombudsman shortlist


MANILA, Philippines—Today, July 4, 211, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will vote on their shortlist for the position of Ombudsman, which they would submit to President Aquino.

The names on the list are much awaited. After all, the vacant position was previously occupied by resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the first Ombudsman to be impeached in Philippine history.

Gutierrez’s term was marred by controversy, as critics had accused her of protecting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her family and friends.

Gutierrez quit last May before the Senate could begin her trial for charges of betraying public trust.

From June 22 to 29, the eight-person JBC interviewed at least 25 nominees to the position at the session hall of the Supreme Court.

JBC members Sen. Francisco Escudero, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas and Justice Sec. Leila de Lima did not attend any of the public interviews. This will not stop them from casting their votes today.

Lack of interest

On the first day of the interviews, only 10 seats in the hall were filled, a surprising sight given the noise and fury that had characterized the ouster calls against Gutierrez.

Only 10 people were therefore able to get it straight from Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol, who relayed his unpleasant experiences under Gutierrez’s rule.

Apostol faced the JBC as a nominee. He spoke calmly, but the things he said made those present cringe.

He said that new people were hired to the office without the knowledge of Gutierrez’s deputies then, buttressing reports about her “midnight appointments” before her May 6, 2011 resignation.

The former Ombudsman reportedly appointed 8 assistant ombudsmen before she resigned.

Apostol disclosed that cases moved at a snail’s pace because everything was centralized. He said the internal affairs board did not conduct deliberations, and that the deputy ombudsmen and the ombudsman never held conferences during Gutierrez’s term.

Apostol added that the assistant ombudsmen had more access to the central office than the deputy ombudsmen. “Probably, they want to isolate us so that we would not be able to object to what they (central office) want,” he told the JBC.

He said that he stood dumbfounded in a meeting on November 2010, when he heard Overall Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro say that there was no delay in the office’s resolution of cases.

He said he could not believe his ears. Cases have been unresolved for years but the office was in a state of denial, he thought.

Stuttering Casimiro

When it was Casimiro’s turn to be on the hot seat before the JBC on June 27, he did admit that cases had gathered dust in Gutierrez’s time.

Casmiro blamed someone for it thought: resigned deputy ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni who, according to Casimiro, superimposed his signature on resolutions that the latter had already signed. (Read: The evidence against Merci)

Casimiro told the JBC that he planned to file falsification charges against Jalandoni because of this, which he did on June 29, or two days after the JBC interview.

The JBC went over the contenders’ backgrounds, and on a few occasions the council, headed by Chief Justice Renato Corona, bluntly pointed out the flaws of the aspirants.

JBC member and former Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman asked Casimiro why he was unaware that resolutions were being withheld when he served as overall ombudsman since 2006. “The public perception is if only you performed your duties vigilantly, then these irregularities should not have happened,” Lagman said.

A stuttering Casimiro answered that he was only in charge of overseeing the office’s day-to-day operations. “Are you telling me that you’re not aware of what is happening around you?” Lagman pressed, doubtful.

Casimiro said handling the complaints on delayed actions was Gutierrez’s job, not his. He added that he only discovered that resolutions were not immediately released when he became acting ombudsman.

Corona, on the other hand, asked Casimiro how he could have disposed of 4,500 cases in a month since he sat as acting ombudsman on May 9.

This is one of the accomplishments that Casimiro has parroted during the interview, along with the filing of 70 cases with the Sandiganbayan.

“Couldn’t you have done the same thing when you were acting ombudsman before?” Corona said. [Casimiro served as acting ombudsman when Gutierrez went on trips abroad]. Casimiro said things were different now, because not all cases then were given to him for disposition.

Meanwhile, lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to the JBC, asked him if he knew that bureau directors served only on an acting capacity. Casimiro said yes, because that was the policy of the previous ombudsman. When Cayosa asked what he intended to do about this, Casimiro said it was not his priority. He said he will concentrate on resolving pending cases if appointed ombudsman.

The interview with Casimiro was one of the highlights of the public interviews because it was one rare occasion when the council asked tough questions.


Otherwise, based on their line of questioning, the members would give a collective query of “Really? Is that really the truth?”

The rest of the interview was monotonous, something that Corona himself acknowledged.

“We kept on hearing the same answers,” he kidded at the end of the fourth day. The humdrum answers could speak of the quality of the contenders. Some offered concrete solutions to problems posed during the interviews, while others came with good intentions—and nothing more.

When asked why they wanted to become ombudsman, many gave the standard “for the love of the country” answer. But this “for the love of the country” rhetoric was not matched by specific strategies or action plans.

There was a moment when the disconnect was so obvious, one could not help but wonder if the contenders really knew what they would be up against if ever they made it to the post.

For one, former National Bureau of Investigation regional director Florencio Villarin talked about good parenting and morality for a good part of the interview. Villarin was nominated twice for the post before.

Of the contenders, two are insiders, Apostol and Casimiro. Two are human rights lawyers, Jose Manuel Diokno and Marlon Manuel, while one is a public interest lawyer, Ernesto Francisco. There are also three judges four officials of the Department of Justice, a retired Supreme Court magistrate (Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales), a former ambassador (Roy Señeres), a Court of Appeals Justice (Portia Hormachuelos), a former legal counsel of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (Catalino Generillo), and an election lawyer (Howard Calleja).

Three of those interviewed for the job have not taken mandatory legal continuing education, which is a requirement for lawyers to harness their knowledge of the law.

Four aspirants are septuagenarians, thus the JBC was expected to ask them about their health.

Carpio-Morales, 70, said her wellness record gives her a clean bill of health.

Retired Judge Alfredo Agawa and former trial lawyer Procopio Beltran, both 72, said that they still play basketball and jog despite their old age. Villarin, 77, also said he still jogs.

Peek at reforms

While there were moments when the interview seemed to drown in motherhood statements, there were also instances when creative ideas dominated it.

Some of the aspirants suggested the following to improve the Office of the Ombudsman: an inventory of cases, a clear deadline for the prosecutors, a conduct of performance audit in government offices and better linkages with civil society and the media.

But the ombudsman could do so much more, as the interview revealed how vast the powers of the position are.

Aside from preventing graft and corruption and investigating public officials, the ombudsman could also recommend the amendment or repeal of laws that are deemed inimical to public interest.


In 2005, the JBC then voted unanimously for Gutierrez.

The council thus is under pressure to make better choices for their short list this time around.

Its rules state that contenders with pending cases should be disqualified. Yet, they still interviewed some contenders facing cases, the most serious of which is a case of inciting to sedition (Señeres). Señeres was charged with inciting to sedition along with retired Gen. Fortunato Abat for the aborted coup against Arroyo in February 2006.

Aside from Señeres, those who face cases that are administrative in nature are Casimiro (Read:Ombudsman nominee faces disbarment) and Apostol. Apostol was asked to explain by the Commission on Audit about the car assigned to him which was allegedly stolen.

Another factor that the JBC would consider in their selection is the opposition against some contenders.

Carpio-Morales, who is said to be President Aquino’s choice, had the most number of oppositors to her nomination: former President Arroyo and former justice secretary Raul Gonzalez. Both said she would not be an impartial ombudsman because she has often decided against the Arroyo administration as an SC magistrate (Read: Arroyo’s ex-DOJ chief joins opposition to lady justice).

Retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima, a JBC member, said that the next ombudsman should have “the stature of the late Conrado Vasquez, the tenacity of Aniano Desierto and the integrity of Simeon Marcelo.”

Would the President eventually find those qualities in the nominees that the JBC had vetted for him?—Newsbreak

CATEGORY: Institutions, Justice & Human Rights, The Judiciary
  1. hahahaaha…. all for show.

    to find a good ombudsman or a good jurist let the jbc create a investigative committee. send its members to every applicant’s house to find out if the applicant lives simply. the ambience in the house will reflect this. if he has lived frugally and simply for the last ten years that is an indication good enough that he hard learned to live within his means and most likley do so even if appointed to the high office.

    find out if his children are already done college. (this will prevent him from prostituting their office so they can pay for their tuition).

    find out if he has personal vices: gambling, drinking and mistress. he should none of these.

    find out if he is a scion of political families, or families that have business with the government.

    mark x on those applicant who said they will apply the law without fear or favor or that they were doing it for the love of the country because they are lying.

    consider highly those who applied for the position without padrinos.

    in other words, appoint a bum like me as an ombudsman or a jurist of the Supreme Court because I have all the qualifications I have mentioned above and I will make a good ombudsman and a good jurist. i hate corruption and my office will reverse the presumption. when it comes to government officials, my office will presume them guilty unless they can prove that they are innocent.

    but they will not appoint someone like me because i do not have the same culture corruption endemic in the system of which the JBC is a part, and there’s the rub.

  2. i mean the “same culture of corruption”

  3. but i will not accept the appointment.. i will be shot dead by hired guns of politicos whose toes you have stepped on. the reason merci was alive today because she has learned to live with the dynamics of dirty politics in the country, and held captive by the very patrons, (corrupt politicos)that empowered her, she could only run after the small fish and let go of the big fish to ensure her survival, euphemistically and literally, for 11 years at least.

  4. Looking for a good jurist or ombudsman from those who assiduously applied for the job and with a coterie of “padrinos” is like looking for Jesus christ in his tomb after three days. You won’t find him there because the living is nowhere in the place of the dead.

    You cannot find a good jurist from this shortlist. JBC should have expanded its list.

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