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Merci’s ex-boss now frontrunner in Ombudsman race


Sources say there is a strong push for former DOJ Secretary Artemio Tuquero

MANILA, Philippines – In an unexpected twist, Artemio Tuquero, the 78-year-old former boss of resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, has emerged as a frontrunner for the post she had vacated.

Newsbreak gathered from at least three sources in government that Sen. Francis Escudero is leading the lobby for Tuquero’s appointment. He reportedly met with President Aquino after the 8-member Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), of which the senator is a member, finalized on July 4, 2011 its shortlist for Gutierrez’s replacement.

Senator Francis Escudero (photo from his official Facebook account)

Escudero admitted to Newsbreak that he indeed spoke with the President about the shortlist, but only to suggest to him to meet each of the four nominees who made it. “There’s nothing wrong if the president does that, he may also talk to the nominees for Supreme Court justice first before he appoints anybody,” he said.

The President has until August 4 to choose the next Ombudsman.

Aside from Tuquero, the nominees are retired Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento, and Presidential Comission on Good Government commissioner Gerard Mosquera.

All got 5 votes each from the 8-member body, which is chaired by Chief Justice Renato Corona.

INC backing

Ironically, President Aquino already cut his ties with Tuquero in April this year when he did not re-appoint the former justice secretary, who belongs to the Iglesia ni Cristo, as a member of the JBC. The INC had opposed Gutierrez’s impeachment, which is a move that President Aquino and his House allies pushed.

Tuquero’s affiliation with the INC was raised by the JBC during his public interview on June 29, 2011, but he said his membership in the church has never affected his work. He said that when he was the justice secretary in 2001, he ordered the filing of falsification charges against a member of the INC.

“The Church respects my independence,” he told the JBC.

INC members reportedly lobbied for members of the House of Representatives to junk the impeachment complaints against Gutierrez in March 2011. Gutierrez’s chief legal counsel, former Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas, is from INC.

Tuquero was Gutierrez’s superior when the former was DOJ secretary under the term of President Joseph Estrada in 2001. At the DOJ, Tuquero said he reduced the backlog of appealed cases, disposing 600 cases in just two months.

How about Carpio-Morales?

For weeks now, many thought that the Ombudsman post was in the bag for Carpio-Morales. She is 70 years old, eight years younger than Tuquero.

It was the retired lady justice who administered the oath to President Aquino in his inaugural last year.

Carpio-Morales got votes 5 votes from the JBC—from Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Jose Mejia, the academe’s representative to the JBC, and lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Those who didn’t vote for Carpio-Morales were Chief Justice Corona, retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima and Sen. Francis Escudero.

Escudero explained that he didn’t vote for her because her appointment to the position may create “a potential distortion” since the ombudsman may appear before the Supreme Court.

Corona and Carpio-Morales, on the other hand, had been on opposite sides of SC red pill like viagra decisions that have impacted the executive branch.

Carpio-Morales voted for the legality of the Truth Commission, which aimed to investigate the Arroyo administration; Corona voted against it. Carpio-Morales also penned the decision allowing Congress to proceed with its hearing on the pharmacy informatics online programs impeachment complaint filed against Gutierrez; Corona dissented.

The retired lady magistrate also clashed with Corona in the following cases:

  • De Castro v. JBC: The SC ruled that the judiciary is not covered by the rule against midnight appointments, where the President is prohibited from making any appointments two months before the elections. Corona abstained from voting, but cialis vs viagra alcohol accepted his nomination to the post. Carpio-Morales withdrew from the race and also dissented.
  • Neri v. Senate: The Court upheld Neri’s invocation of executive privilege in the Senate inquiry on the controversial US$329-million NBN-ZTE deal. Corona concurred with the majority; Carpio-Morales dissented.
  • La Bugal v. Ramos – The Court declared the Mining Act, the passage of which was pushed by Arroyo, constitutional. Corona concurred with the majority; Carpio-Morales dissented.

The 70-year-old Carpio-Morales got the most number of oppositiors during the nomination process—7—including those filed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. Both said the former magistrate could not be deemed independent because she was “biased” against Arroyo. (Read: Arroyo’s ex-DOJ chief joins opposition to lady justice) (Read: Arroyo’s opposition letter to Carpio-Morales’ Ombudsman bid)

During her public interview on June 23, Carpio-Morales cited a Newsbreak research which showed that she voted 10 times for the Arroyo administration and 11 times against the former president (Read: Voting pattern of Supreme Court justices).

Doubts were also cast on the impartiality of Carpio-Morales because she is the cousin of another dissenter in the Court, Justice Antonio Carpio.

Carpio was one of the founders of the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco Law Office, or The Firm, which handles several cases filed at the Office of the Ombudsman.

But Newsbreak learned that Carpio-Morales did not dismiss a disbarment case filed against two of The Firm’s co-founders, Pancho Villaraza and is generic cialis good Avelino Cruz, Jr. Lawyer Nordy Diploma filed a disbarment case against the two because one of The Firm’s lawyers had written a judge accusing a plaintiff of keeping a fictitious residence.

The Firm asked for the complaint’s dismissal, but Carpio-Morales referred it to the IBP in March for investigation.

Excerpts from the interview of Carpio-Morales:

JBC: How would you respond to the criticism regarding the flow of cases at the Office of the Ombdusman?

Carpio-Morales: I don’t have the magician or genius quality to file 3,000 cases in one month [Casimiro did this upon taking on the post of acting ombudsman on May 9]. What I aim to do is institute reforms, make an inventory of prosecutors, submit recommendations, get list of officers.

JBC: What can you say about the letters of opposition filed against you that raised questions on your independence?

Carpio-Morales: I am not the right person to speak on my independence. My decisions speak for themselves. But a survey on voting showed that I voted 10 times for the administration and 11 times against.

JBC: Give us one reason why we should nominate you.

Carpio-Morales: I have the moral fiber to prosecute those who ought to be prosecuted and to ward off extra-legal factors that impede the proceedings.

Tuquero, on the other hand, served as a Court of Appeals Justice from 1996-2000, before his DOJ stint.

Relying on media

During his JBC interview, Tuquero said that he would rely on the media to help him expose corrupt practices. If anything anomalous is reported in the news, he would look into it. “Nip it in the bud,” he said.

This response didn’t appeal to JBC member Hermosisima, who told him that “you should not wait for the media to do something.”

Tuquero then said he would challenge all government officials, particularly the heads of the agencies, to set an example and urge employees to have a “sense of pride.”

“Let us involve everybody in the fight against graft and corruption,” he said.

Excerpts from the online cialis JBC interview with Tuquero:

JBC: Why did you accept the nomination?

Tuquero: Not because I’m attracted to the awesome powers of the office but I want to have the chance to restore the powers of other offices, such as the Office of the Special Prosecutor. There is too much concentration of powers on the Office of the Ombudsman; that’s the very reason why it’s not effective in eradicating corruption.

JBC: What areas will you prioritize?

Tuquero: There’s a need to look at the structure and the systems in the Office of the Ombudsman. I’m thinking of making the OSP autonomous.

JBC: What is your distinct advantage over other aspirants?

Tuquero: My track record is my advantage. I held the position of chief prosecutor for 7 and 1/2 years. I was dean of four law schools (Tuquero was dean of Universidad de Manila, UE College of Law, Manuel L. Quezon University and Urdaneta City University)

The other nominee on the shortlist, Armamento, was recommended by Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong. Armamento admitted during her interview on June 22 that she is Datumanong’s friend.

Datumanong is one of the lawmakers who voted against Gutierrez’s impeachment. He also voted for Gutierrez as Ombudsman in 2005, when Datumanong was a member of the JBC.

But there is no love lost between the 51-year-old Armamento and Gutierrez, who worked together at the DOJ. When asked about Gutierrez’s management style, Armamento said, “I will be fair. There are instances when she is not fair,” Armamento said. “She listens to personal quarrels.”

Aside from being a former justice undersecretary, Armamento was also a member of the government peace negotiating panel which crafted the memorandum of agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The MOA-AD was declared unconstitutional by the SC in 2008, however, in a decision penned by Carpio-Morales.

During the JBC interview, Armamento said that she was approached by “influential people” in Mindanao once and offered her P3 million in exchange for a favorable decision. Armamento said that she declined, adding that “there’s a surviving witness.”

Excerpts of interview with Armamento:

JBC: Do you believe that the conviction rate of the Ombudsman is important?

Armamento: No, because justice is not merely conviction.

JBC: What is your most notable achievement?

Armamento: My ability to weather all politics in the DOJ is already an achievement.

JBC: How would you ensure your independence?

Armamento: Cases are resolved within the four corners of the case. You cannot go beyond that.

The other nominee, Gerard Mosquera, used to be the executive assistant and director of then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo. He is now a PCGG commissioner.

Mosquera did not face the JBC anymore because he was previously interviewed for the post of deputy ombudsman, a post which the JBC also nominated him for. He got unanimous votes from the 8-member body.

The native from General Santos received the Littauer leadership award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2010. Prior to taking up his masters in public administration in Harvard, he also completed his masters in law at the University of London as a Chevening scholar in 2002.

Mosquera has worked at USAID in its anti-corruption program in East Timor in 2005 and was one of those who pushed for the development of East Timor’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

The JBC disqualified 5 aspirants because of pending cases against them. These included Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, deputy ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol, PCGG counsel Generillo Aldea, election lawyer Howard Calleja and private practitioner Ernesto Francisco.—Newsbreak

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  1. Escodero is trying to bag the INC vote for the next election.

  2. Johnny Lin says:

    Thumbs up, Brian.

  3. Broad Labor Groups Oppose Supreme Court Associate Justice Carpio-Morales’ Nomination as Ombudsman

    In today’s schedule of the public interview of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, labor groups* picketed the venue to oppose the inclusion of Associate Justice Carpio-Morales in the list of candidates for the position of Ombudsman.

    The broad labor groups submitted a letter addressed to the Judicial and Bar Council and stressed that the group’s intractable opposition to he nomination as Ombudsman is based on the palpable and consistent anomalies with regard to the case of the 92 Dusit Thani Hotel Workers who are now seeking justice against the decision of the Supreme Court Second Division on G.R. No. 163942 dated November 11, 2008 or commonly known as “The Dusit Case.”

    While Justice Presbitero Velasco was the ponente, Carpio-Morales was among the five (5) Associate Justices who rendered the decision on the abovementioned case against the 92 former Dusit Hotel workers. The Velasco ruling is clearly a form of “judicial legislation” because the SC, in effect, amended the statutory definition of “strike” when it deemed the shaving of one’s hair to amount to an “illegal strike”!

    More than 20 labor federations and unions intervened in the case and repeatedly filed motions for reconsiderations because of the implications of this solid decision of the Second Division. It is, in fact, expressly stipulated in Article VIII, Section 4 (3) of the 1987 Constitution that when there’s a doctrinal or constitutional issue involved, it must be reviewed or resolved by the Supreme Court en banc.

    The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, wherein the Dusit Thani Hotel case was one of the 8 cases investigated by the ILO High Level Mission in September 2009, in its 358th report dated November 2010 found that the Philippine Government violated the ILO Conventions 87 and 98, to wit:

    “862. The Committee considers that…generally, a strike is a temporary work stoppage (slowdown) willfully effected by one or more groups of workers. In the present case, while shaving their heads, the employees had not stopped working. The Committee considers that equating the mere expression of discontent, peacefully and lawfully exercised, with a strike per se results in a violation of the freedom of association and expression.”

    Justice Carpio-Morales and the rest of the 2nd Division refused to rule on that fundamental issue, even as the same was brought to her attention many times at the risk of the lawyers being held in contempt.

    She approved the February 9, 2009 Resolution denying the Motion for Reconsideration even though the Second Division was not validly constituted for lack of one member. Associate Justice Ruben Reyes retired on January 2, 2009 and his replacement had not been designated as of February 9, 2009.

    Division Clerk of Court Ludichi Yasay-Nunag later admitted that Justice Ruben Reyes did not participate in the approval of the Resolution as the latter already retired. There is no doubt then that the said Resolution is NULL AND VOID because there was NO Second Division to speak of. The Constitution requires the Supreme Court to sit in a Division of five.

    Despite repeated Motions for Reconsideration and issues raised on the validity of the February 9, 2009 Resolution for lack of a fifth member, again, just like the earlier constitutional issue, the Second Division REFUSED TO DECIDE on the matter.

    “Her participation in the assailed resolution casts a shadow of doubt on Associate Justce Conchita Carpio-Morales’ integrity and competence which the position of the Ombudsman requires and demands,” Larry Javier, Vice President of NUWHRAIN-DHNC, said.

    Javier further stated that the Justice had countless opportunities to address this issue. Apparently, she saw no reason to address a fundamental constitutional issue, even one which destroyed the livelihoods and threw away the years of service of ordinary workers and one which threatens those of many workers other than those from Dusit Thani Hotel.

    A Supreme Court Justice who cannot understand that four (4) is less than five (5) should not be allowed to become an Ombudsman.

    A Supreme Court Justice who refused to recognize the fact that January 2, 2009 actually occurred before February 9, 2009 should not be allowed to become an Ombudsman!

    * Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL); Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP); Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU); Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN); Partido ng Manggagawa (PM); Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions of the Philippines (ACCUP); League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO); National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU); National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN); Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP); Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN)

  4. If these frontrunners were selected by members of the JBC and sponsored by a coterie of padrinos my stand would still be the same. We were like looking for Jesus Christ in the sepulchre 3 days after He was entombed. The living is not in the place for the dead.

  5. I am atleast consistent in my position. In a house of prostitute, it is hard to find a virgin. :)

    Or as my professor said, (Prof. Perfecto Fernandez), all these jurists belong to the same side of the coin, their disagreement is nothing more than a polemic discussion of brigands on how to divide the spoil/loot.

  6. I would go for Mosquera anytime. He has the vigor of youth, intelligence, independence and competence for the position.

  7. salvador barona says:

    I go for Mosquera, I believe he is the most qualified and the only one who has a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish in his first 100 days.

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