SC Justice Martires, Sandiganbayan Justice De la Cruz vie for Ombudsman

Lian Buan
SC Justice Martires, Sandiganbayan Justice De la Cruz vie for Ombudsman
(UPDATED) The two justices join the list of aspirants for the coveted post

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Samuel Martires and anti-graft court Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz are vying for the post of Ombudsman.

Martires and De la Cruz are part of the “considered applicants” of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), two informed sources from the judiciary told Rappler on Wednesday, May 16. The JBC will screen the applicants before it sends a short list to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The powerful position will be vacant once Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales retires on July 26.

Two sources said Martires was nominated by retired SC justice Jose Perez, which Martires accepted.

The deadline for the submission of applications for Ombudsman closed on Tuesday, May 15.

Martires and De la Cruz join the list of aspirants for the highly coveted post, tasked to prosecute corruption cases against public officials.

Martires was a Sandiganbayan justice before Duterte appointed him to the SC. He is due to retire from the SC in January 2019. Should he be chosen as the next Ombudsman, he will follow the path of Morales who became Ombudsman after retiring as an SC justice.

Martires is Duterte’s fellow Bedan; he was part of the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division that cleared Duterte in a graft case over a canal cover project in Davao City in 2011.

De la Cruz chairs the Sandiganbayan’s First Division, his most high-profile case involving the plunder charges against former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr in the pork barrel scam.

The Sandiganbayan’s 1st Division under De la Cruz has given veteran litigator Estelito Mendoza a hard time, junking his many legal pleadings to get Revilla off the hook. Revilla’s plunder case is currently at the stage of defense presentation, after Dela Cruz and his fellow justices denied the bid of the defense camp to pause the trial.

Other Ombudsman applicants

According to Rappler sources, 8 others have been considered applicants for Ombudsman, including Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and former Duterte lawyer Edna Batacan. 

The list of applicants so far, are as follows”

  1. Attorney Edna Herrera-Batacan
  2. Attorney Rex Rico
  3. Judge Carlos Espero II
  4. Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval
  5. Secretary Silvestre Bello III
  6. Associate Justice Samuel Martires
  7. Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz
  8. Attorney Rey Ifurung 
  9. Attorney Felito Ramirez 
  10. Attorney Rainier Madrid

Madrid is the lawyer of presidential son Paolo Duterte, and was the one who appeared at the Senate when it was investigating the resigned Davao City vice mayor’s alleged links to the smuggling syndicate called the “Davao Group”. The Office of the Ombudsman is investigating Paolo for several cases, including ill-gotten wealth.

SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro declined her nomination, according to one of the sources. 

Visibly missing from the list is Solicitor General Jose Calida, who was the reported front runner. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved  House Bill No. 7376, which seeks to abolish the  Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and transfer the task of recovering Marcos ill-gotten wealth to the solicitor general.

Several senators have opposed this move, citing conflict of interest as Calida is a known Marcos supporter.

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.