Martires eyes speedy resolution of cases if named Ombudsman

MANILA — Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Samuel Martires said Wednesday he would speed up the resolution of cases if he becomes the next Ombudsman.

“(My) plan to accomplish as an Ombudsman that (I) did not accomplish as a (lawyer), and (I) stated that with no offense meant to the office of the Ombudsman, there are lots of problem actually that beset its office and given an emphasis to the inordinate delay of cases,” Martires told members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) during the interview for nominees to the post.

Martires is competing with nine other aspirants vying to replace outgoing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales who will retire on July 26.

He also defended his alleged “faith-shaming” of ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying his intention was to actually help the former top magistrate.

“I did not faith-shame any person and never in my life have I faith-shamed a person, nor did I shame a person in public or even in private,” Martires told the JBC.

Martires asked Sereno last April 10 in the oral arguments on her ouster petition if invoking God as a source of strength and happiness can be considered a mental illness. This prompted Sereno to ask for Martires’ inhibition in the case, accusing him of “faith-shaming” her.

“I apologized to her. It was not meant to shame her. My intention was to actually defend her and that there is nothing wrong for a person to invoke God, to speak about God every minute of his life,” he said.

Martires explained that the question was “a follow up” to the question of Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. “who mentioned bipolar disorder” during the oral arguments.

“I may sometimes utter bad words, but I never, never shamed a woman, either in public or in private,” he said.

This was in response to a letter submitted on Monday by a group of Catholic priests, evangelical pastors, and religious academics to the JBC’s ex-officio chairman and Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, which accused Martires of lacking probity for not inhibiting in the case.

Martires, however, did not inhibit from the case. He was among the eight justices who voted to nullify Sereno’s appointment and affirmed such court ruling.

Speaking to reporters after the public interview, Martires said everyone has “the right to say that God is the source of all strength.”
“It is not a sign of mental illness,” he added.

After Martires, the JBC interviewed lawyers Felito Ramirez and Rex Rico, and Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval.

Another candidate, Davao Judge Carlos Espero II, will no longer be interviewed since his interview for the SC associate justice post, which he also applied for, will be considered valid for his application as Ombudsman.

Morales, 76, is a retired SC Associate Justice who was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III as Ombudsman in 2011. With reports from Rachel Banares, OJT/