By Dane Angelo M. Enerio
and Gillian M. Cortez
THE SUPREME COURT (SC) on Tuesday unanimously recommended Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires to the post of Ombudsman, according to SC spokesperson Theodore O. Te.
“He obtained 11 votes of the 12 justices who were present,” Mr. Te told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday.
Mr. Te said Associate Justices Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa were not present to vote.
Among the nominees, the SC also voted for Special Prosecutor Edilberto G. Sandoval (four votes) and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III (three votes), according to Mr. Te.
Messrs. Martires, Sandoval, and Bello are competing with seven other nominees vying to replace outgoing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales who is set to retire on July 26.
BusinessWorld reported on June 18 that Mr. Martires’s candidacy for the post was challenged by a group of clergymen and religious academics over his “bias and partiality” in the quo warranto petition that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno on May 11 wherein he was also accused of “faith-shaming” Ms. Sereno.
In response, Mr. Martires apologized during his interview with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on June 20, saying he meant to defend Ms. Sereno and not shame her.
Ms. Sereno had sought the inhibition of Mr. Martires from the case along with Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Teresita L. De Castro, Francis H. Jardeleza, Lucas P. Bersamin, and Noel G. Tijam, the author of the decision, for their alleged bias towards her.
All six, together with Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Alexander G. Gesmundo, voted to grant Solicitor-General Jose C. Calida’s quo warranto petition to void Ms. Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice for lack of integrity.
For his part, Ombudsman aspirant and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in a press conference on Tuesday he will “Reiterate my challenge to my detractors who are in and out of this department: sue me if you have an iota of evidence against me.”
Mr. Bello was responding to allegations of extortion of which he said: “That has been the subject of an affidavit by a Ms. Azziza (Salim).” He added that he was able to speak to Ms. Salim and “found out that somebody prepared an affidavit which she signed without reading the contents of the affidavit.”
Mr. Bello said Ms. Salim herself, a recruiter, “never mentioned my name.”
“I challenge that lady waiving that affidavit to me to show it to me,” he said about Kilusang Pagbabago Secretary General Monalie U. Dizon who filed charges against him before the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).
The labor secretary has also been accused of not helping an OFW named Mercy bring her infant child home.
“I found out the reason why hindi mauwi ang bata(the baby cannot be brought home) is because under Saudi law, hindi pwede ipalabas ang bata kung hindi ma-determine ang paternity at maternity niya (the baby cannot be allowed to be brought out of the country if they cannot determine the child’s paternity and maternity),” he said.
Overseas Workers Welfare Association administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for his part said, “Saudi authorities ay hindi basta-basta binibigay ng authority to exit ang minors unless determined ang origin ng maternity at paternity ng bata (Saudi authorities won’t just grant an authority to exit for minors without first a determination of the maternity and paternity).”
Mr. Bello said all these accusations surfaced “amid coming deliberations of the JBC (Judicial Bar Council) on the applicants (for) the position of Ombudsman (of) which I am one of the candidates.”
“JBC is going to decide this Friday kaya (which is) very timely yung pag-attack (the attack),” he added.