Complainant opposes Midas Marquez’ SC application, cites ‘misused’ World Bank funds

Lian Buan
Complainant opposes Midas Marquez’ SC application, cites ‘misused’ World Bank funds
Private citizen Rjhay Laurea files the opposition with the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which is screening Marquez and other applicants for Supreme Court Justice

MANILA, Philippines – A private complainant filed on Thursday, June 21, an opposition to the application of Court Administrator Midas Marquez for a Supreme Court (SC) justice, citing the 2012 controversy wherein the World Bank asked the High Court to return funds they considered were misused.

Rjhay Laurea, a private citizen, submitted the opposition to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) which is screening Marquez and 11 other applicants  to replace SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr when he retires on August 8.

“It’s an old, non-issue, erroneous complaint that cannot even be attributed to me,” Marquez said in a text message.

What is the issue about? In 2012, the World Bank made an audit of the funds that it gave the Supreme Court for its Judicial Reform Support Project (JRSP). The World Bank found that P8.6 million of the funds spent by the Court was “ineligible” or used for expenses not approved in the procurement plan.

The ineligible funds included airfare expenses of SC officials, paid to the travel agency of influential lawyer Estelito Mendoza, who handles cases at the Supreme Court.

The World Bank asked the SC to return the P8.6 million.

In its audit, the World Bank said 16 of the ineligible expenditures “relate” to the Office of the Court Administrator, which was and still is headed by Marquez.

The World Bank aide memoire said: “This senior official, due to the combination of his appointments and functions, was the requestor of the services, the approver of the terms of reference, the end-user of the services provided by the firm, the authorizer of contract extensions, and the authorizer of payments to the firm.”

“Although unnamed, it obviously pertained to Marquez,” the opposition said.

At that time,  “Marquez was concurrently the Court Administrator, Spokesperson of the Supreme Court, and Chief of its Public Information Office and Chief of Staff of the Office of the Chief Justice,” said the opposition.

For his part, Marquez said: “World Bank Project and funds never passed me despite my numerous positions. That was under the Program Management Office or PMO which was never under me.”

A Sereno issue? After the Supreme Court affirmed her ouster, former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno told Rappler that the rallies of SC employees against her were orchestrated by Marquez. It was the first time that Sereno directly implicated Marquez to the “negative propaganda against me.”

We asked Marquez if he thinks the opposition is backed by Sereno, but he refused to comment. 

The opposition Laurea, claimed that Marquez committed graft in the World Bank “ineligible” funds.

“Marquez’s presence as the then multi-hyphenated Supreme Court senior official for the JRSP has contributed to the breakdown of the control, increased fiduciary and reputation risks, and irregular/inappropriate procurement and expenditure decisions of the Supreme Court,” Laurea said.

The opposition added: “At the time that his accountability and transparency was put into a big question, Marquez simply passed the blame to the other offices in the Supreme Court. Instead of explaining his transgressions, Marquez deemed it appropriate to silence the public clamor by nonchalantly dismissing the World Bank findings as a mere preliminary report.”

Marquez said he has yet to read the entire opposition, “but I will go over each and every allegation later.” Marquez was at the Manila Hotel forum on Draft Federal Constitution, where he was a reactor on Court Administration. – Rappler.com

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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.