Martires tops JBC shortlist for Ombudsman

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte administers the oath of office for the newly-appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires during a simple ceremony at the Music Room of Malacañan Palace on Wednesday (March 8, 2017). (Photo by Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo/PNA)

MANILA — Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Samuel Martires led the shortlist of nominees to replace outgoing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

This was confirmed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex-officio member of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), in a text message sent to the Philippine News Agency on Friday afternoon.

According to Guevarra, among those included in the shortlist were retired Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval and private practitioner Atty. Felito Ramirez.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III was disqualified from the shortlist, but Guevarra said he is still verifying if Bello’s disqualification “had any factual basis.”

Of the seven members of the JBC, Martires got six votes, Sandoval earned five, while Ramirez got four.

Guevarra said the JBC is poised to submit its shortlist to President Rodrigo Duterte, who is the appointing authority, within the day.

Morales, 76, is a retired SC Associate Justice who was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III as Ombudsman in 2011.

The President has 90 days to determine who will take over the position of Ombudsman Morales.

Last Tuesday, Supreme Court (SC) magistrates unanimously recommended Martires to the JBC.

Martires, a graduate of San Beda College of Law and a former Sandiganbayan justice, was the first appointee of Duterte to the High Court.

He served as an Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan and was a Regional Trial Court Judge of Agoo, La Union.

Sandoval, on the other hand, is a retired Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice. An expert in criminal law, he was a professor, author and a Bar reviewer. He is currently a special prosecutor.

Meanwhile, Ramirez is a private practitioner. He is also a graduate of San Beda and a fraternity brother of Duterte.

The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen applicants to the Judiciary and top Ombudsman positions.

Under Article VIII Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution, the JBC screens individuals aspiring to be part of the judiciary, including the leads of the office of the Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman, Special Prosecutor, and the offices of the Chairperson and Regular Members of the Legal Education Board.

It is currently chaired by Senior Associate Justice, now acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, with ex-officio members Guevarra, Senator Richard Gordon and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali. Gordon and Umali have their term sharing agreement since the Congress is entitled only to one vote in the JBC.

Its regular members include retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, representing the justices and chairperson of the JBC Executive Committee, Atty. Jose Mejia, representing the Academe, Atty. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and retired Judge Toribio Ilao, representing the private sector.

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