LIST: Get to know the applicants for Ombudsman

Jodesz Gavilan

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LIST: Get to know the applicants for Ombudsman

Darren Langit

Informed sources from the judiciary tell Rappler that the list of applicants for the highly coveted Ombudsman spot includes 10 individuals – from private practitioners to long-time judges

MANILA, Philippines – Ten individuals have been considered applicants vying for the post of Ombudsman as the deadline set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) lapsed on Tuesday, May 15.  

Three informed sources from the judiciary told Rappler that the list includes a mix of private practitioners and members of the judiciary.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is set to retire from the highly coveted post on July 26, 2018. 

The Office of the Ombudsman, as mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases against public officials. It is an independent office “enjoying fiscal autonomy” – one of the constitutional guarantees that helps insulate it from political influence and interference. 

Below is the list and background of each applicant:

Edna Herrera-Batacan

  • Law degree from San Beda College of Law
  • Admitted to the Bar in 1981
  • Teaches law at San Beda College of Law for 3 decades
  • Represented President Rodrigo Duterte in some of the lawsuits he faced as mayor of Davao City, including graft charges for the demolition of a canal cover project
  • Legal counsel of former first gentleman Mike Arroyo, handed graft cases involving the Philippine National Police (PNP) helicopters anomaly and the controversial NBN-ZTE broadband deal

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III

  • Law degree from the Ateneo Law School 
  • Admitted to the Bar in 1971
  • Currently serves as the labor secretary under President Rodrigo Duterte
  • Served as justice secretary from 1991 to 1992 under the administration of Corazon Aquino
  • Served as solicitor general from 1996 to 1998 under the administration of Fidel V. Ramos
  • Chaired the government panel in talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) from 2001 to 2004

Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz

  • Law degree from the University of the East
  • Admitted to the Bar in 1982
  • Currently chairs the Sandiganbayan’s First Division
  • Most high-profile case involves the plunder charges against former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr in the pork barrel scam
  • Appointed to the Sandiganbayan in 2003 by then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
  • Worked in the private sector, starting out as a legal researcher for a law firm, before being appointed justice

Judge Carlos Espero II

  • Admitted to the Bar in 1993
  • Appointed to Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 9 by then president Benigno Aquino III in 2012
  • Handled a drug case against a suspected member of the 14-K international drug syndicate in 2015
  • Second nominee of Aktibong Bayang Pilipino Inc before it was disqualified from 2013 polls

Rey Nathaniel Ifurung

  • Admitted to the Bar in 1987
  • Urged the Supreme Court in June 2017 to declare the Office of the Ombudsman vacant, saying RA 6770 – giving an Ombudsman successor a fresh 7-year term – goes against the 1987 Constitution. The SC dismissed the petition.
  • Currently part of Ifurung Law Offices

Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires

  • Law degree from San Beda College of Law
  • Set to retire from the Supreme Court in January 2019
  • Served as Sandiganbayan associate justice for more than 10 years
  • Issued the warrant of arrest in 2014 against former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, his former aide Gigi Reyes, and other co-accused in the plunder charges filed against them over the pork barrel scam when he was part of the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division
  • Served as presiding judge of the Agoo Regional Trial Court Branch 32 before being appointed to the anti-graft court
  • Involved in private practice as a litigator, handling mostly civil cases, from 1987 to 2000
  • Worked at the Ministry of Human Settlements from 1974 to 1984 as assistant department manager
  • Worked as legal officer at the Department of Public Works, Transportation, and Communication from 1976 to 1979 

Rainier Madrid

  • Admitted to the Bar in 1983
  • Founding partner of Madrid and Associates
  • Lawyer of presidential son Paulo Duterte, appeared before the Senate during the hearings on the younger Duterte’s alleged links to a triad or an organized crime group involved in smuggling

Felito Ramirez

  • Law degree from the San Beda College of Law
  • Admitted to the Bar in 1973
  • Placed in the top 10 of the Bar Exams
  • Lex Talionis Fraternitas brother of both former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and President Rodrigo Duterte 

Rex Rico

  • Law degree from the San Beda College of Law
  • Admitted to the Bar in 1972 
  • Batchmate of former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II from San Beda batch 1971
  • Currently part of the law firm Rico & Associates Lawyers

Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval

  • Law degree from Far Eastern University
  • Currently serves as head of graft prosecutors of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the prosecutorial arm of the Office of the Ombudsman
  • Appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte special prosecutor in July 2017 and has a fixed 7-year term until 2024 if he stays in his position
  • Biggest cases handled as special prosecutor include attempts to overturn the bail grant of former senator Jinggoy Estrada, and opposing the witness protection of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles
  • Served as presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan after being appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2010
  • Worked at the anti-graft court for 14 years
  • Started judicial career in 1983 as judge of the Regional Trial Court of Oriental Mindoro Branch 42 

Absence, withdrawal, decline

Missing from the list of considered applicants is Solicitor General Jose Calida who is reported to be a front-runner in the race for the coveted spot. He is currently facing a graft complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged financial interest in a security agency which has government contracts.

SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, meanwhile, declined her nomination submitted by retired justice Arturo Brion. De Castro is set to retire from the SC in October 2018, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Another Davao judge, Judge Rowena Adlawan of the Davao City RTC Branch 13, initially applied but later withdrew her application, sources said.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is set to deliberate on the applications and hold interviews before sending a short list to President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: How the Judicial and Bar Council works) – With reports from Lian Buan /

Batacan photo from her Facebook page, Bello photo by Malacañang, Dela Cruz photo from Office of the Ombudsman, Martires photo from the JBC, Sandoval and Madrid photos by Rappler

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.