Closed-door JBC meeting to tackle Ombudsman vacancy

By Butch Fernandez and Fernan Marasigan, Business Mirror

Posted at May 02 2011 09:48 AM | Updated as of May 02 2011 05:48 PM

The Judicial Bar Council (JBC) is set to meet behind closed doors on Monday to start the process of immediately finding a replacement for embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who submitted her resignation last Friday to President Aquino, avoiding the prospect of facing an impeachment trial at the Senate when Congress resumes sessions on May 9.

Sen. Francis Escudero, the Senate representative to the JBC, confirmed that the council is set to convene on Monday to take up other pending matters, but is also expected to take up the vacancy in the Office of the Ombudsman when the resignation of Gutierrez takes effect on May 6.

Under the rules, the names of those nominated or interested to take the place of Gutierrez are submitted to the JBC, which processes and screens the applicants, after which the JBC submits a shortlist of nominees for President Aquino to choose from.

The JBC, which is chaired by the Chief Justice, includes the chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Justice, a retired member of the SC and of the Court of Appeals and one representative each from the Integrated Bar and the academe, as members.

Escudero, however, said the JBC proceedings are not open to media coverage.

“It [JBC meeting] is held in chambers,” Escudero explained in a radio interview on Sunday. But he quickly added that “the minutes of the JBC meetings are made available to media afterwards.”

‘Find somebody like Pepe Diokno to be Ombudsman’

Find a person like Pepe Diokno to head the Office of the Ombudsman.

This was the appeal of Liberal Party Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar to President Aquino saying that the next Ombudsman should stand for what is right, legal and moral and without a fiber of partisanship or cronyism in his body like the late Sen. Jose “Pepe” Wright Diokno.

Prior to being senator, Diokno was appointed Secretary of Justice by then- President Diosdado Macapagal.

A year after his appointment,  Diokno ordered a raid on a company owned by Harry Stonehill, an American businessman who was suspected of tax evasion and bribery of public officials, among other crimes.

Diokno’s investigation of Stonehill opened a can of worms on the corruption within government ranks.

But Macapagal intervened and accepted a deal that absolved Stonehill in exchange for his deportation, then ordering Diokno to resign.

“How can the government now prosecute the corrupted when it has allowed the corrupter to go?” said Diokno in questioning the President’s action.

Later, Diokno ran for senator and won. During the administration of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, Diokno was among the members of the opposition ordered detained when martial law was declared.

When Marcos was ousted through a people-backed military revolt and installed Corazon Aquino as President, Diokno was appointed as head of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights but later resigned owing to his disappointment because of the Mendiola Massacre in January 1987.

“President Aquino should look for a Jose W. Diokno in the legal community to replace Ombudsman [Merceditas] Gutierrez,” said Evardone.

“The next Ombudsman must be able to speak the truth and his or her independence and integrity must be unquestionable,” he added.

Gutierrez resigned over the weekend, days before the Senate is expected to hear the impeachment case against her.

Malacañang said on Saturday that the next Ombudsman would be a “true protector” of the people, with proven integrity and a strong anticorruption advocacy.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte said said as far as Malacañang is concerned, “it goes without saying” that the next Ombudsman would fulfill all of the requirements for the job.

“Needless for us to have to say that the one to be appointed will be fit for the job...we have long maintained that we need an Ombudsman who would be a true protector of the people. It goes without saying,” Valte said.

She said the President has not mentioned any possible candidates for the job who would be nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) but will be duly guided by the requirements for such a job, including body of work, an anticorruption advocacy and proven integrity.