Supreme Court of the Philippines

Palace JBC appointee linked to hazing
Frederick Musngi, undersecretary in the Office of the President, is a member of the Ateneo Law School Aquila Legis fraternity and was among those cleared in the Lenny Villa homicide case

(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines – Michael Frederick D.L. Musngi, undersecretary in the Office of the President, has been named as the newest member of the Judicial and Bar Council, which vets nominees to the Supreme Court.

Musngi, who heads the Office of Special Concerns under the Office of the Executive Secretary, replaces Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Here’s the catch: Musngi is a member of the Aquila Legis fraternity which was involved in the killing of Ateneo Law student Jose Leonardo “Lenny” Villa.

According to a Supreme Court ruling on the Villa case promulgated in February 2012, it was in the house of Musngi, an Aquilan, that the fraternity neophytes were brought on the night of February 8, 1991. It was Musngi who briefed the neophytes, including Villa, on what to expect during the initiation rites.

He was among the 19 cleared in the homicide case.

Asked why Musngi was appointed by the President, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, “Undersecretary Musngi is a lawyer…This position is only…temporary…and he being the Undersecretary for Special Concerns, the OES [Office of the Executive Secretary] felt that he would be able to perform the obligation. This is for a limited role only for selecting the Chief Justice.”

De Lima had been nominated to the post of chief justice and will be among those interviewed by the JBC. The post was left vacant after former chief justice Renato Corona was convicted in May by a Senate impeachment court by a vote of 20-3.

In his letter to the JBC dated July 19, 2012, President Aquino said: “I hereby designate Atty. Michael Frederick L. Musngi, Undersecretary of the Office of Special Concerns, Office of the President, as the representative of the Executive Branch, vice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, for the sole purpose of participating in the deliberations of the Judicial and Bar Council for the selection of nominees for the position of Chief Justice.”

JBC accepted request

The JBC, according a Palace statement, acceded to the request of Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. in behalf of the President to assign a substitute for De Lima to ensure that the 3 branches of government are equally represented in the deliberation of the council.

Following an en banc meeting, the council wrote to the Executive Secretary on July 17, 2012, that it had “agreed to accept the designation of a representative of the Executive Department in the JBC whose rank is not lower than Undersecretary.”

Musngi has been in government service since 2002, having worked at the Government Service Insurance System, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agrarian Reform, and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

He is the official representative of the Office of the President as ex-officio board member in the Maritime Industry Authority, the Philippine National Railways, and the National Housing Authority. –

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