Probe SC spokesman, Akbayan asks Ombudsman

Purple S. Romero

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Akbayan says Marquez acting more as Corona's spokesman, not of the High Court

Midas Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello asked the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday, January 27, to investigate Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez for allegedly using the resources of the SC to serve as the “unofficial defense counsel” of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Corona is currently the subject of an impeachment trial.

Bello said the Ombudsman should probe Marquez as part of its duty to discipline erring officials. The partylist representative accused Marquez of doing the following for Corona:

a. Declare a court holiday on December 13 to show solidarity for Corona. Judges and court employees did not report to work on that day, a dereliction of duty that Bello said resulted in “incalculable damage” to litigants.

Marquez denied that he ordered a court holiday, saying he only “suggested” it. But a notice sent by Executive Judge Edgar Garvilles of Bacolod City to judges, clerks of court and court personnel under his jurisdiction cited Marquez’s declaration of a court holiday on Dec. 14, 2011.

b. Issue public statements defending Corona. Marquez, according to the complaint, delivered a speech before the board of trustees of the Regional Trial Court Judges Association in December 2011 where he said that Corona’s impeachment was an “assault against the judiciary.” 

c. Helped organize vigils and “extended flag ceremonies” in his capacity as a court administrator where Corona spoke to defend himself 

“It should be emphasized that these actions in the defense of the Chief Justice consume the time not only of Mr. Marquez, but those of other court employees under him. It requires use of the Court’s facilties and resources, and ultimately, the disbursement of public funds,” Bello said. 

World bank loan

Bello added that Marquez should be made answerable for “breakdown in internal controls” in the implementation of the Judicial Reform Support Project, which is funded through a loan from the World Bank. The JRSP aims to expedite the resolution of cases. 

In an aide memoire dated Dec.28, 2011, the World Bank did not mention Marquez, but referred to “this senior official,” who perform different functions as “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.”

Having all these duties imposed upon one person weakens checks and balances, the aide memoire raised. Bello said this led to the approval of ineligible expenditures amounting to $199,000.

Even as Marquez argued that these expenses only translate to 0.75 percent of $21.9-million loan from the World Bank, Bello said the public would still have to shoulder this. –

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