3 names crop up in search for next Ombudsman

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 02 2011 04:25 PM | Updated as of May 03 2011 02:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A member of the Judicial Bar and Council tasked with vetting and recommending prospective candidates for the position of Ombudsman on Monday said he already heard the names of human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, former senator Wigberto "Bobby" Tañada and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rene Villa as possible candidates for the position of Ombudsman.

"I heard the names of Bobby Tanada, Chel Diokno and Rene Villa but there's no definite endorsement from the Liberal Party. We need to shortlist to 3 names then we forward to president," House justice committee chairman Niel Tupas Jr. said.

Tupas said he is considering inhibiting from the voting on the candidates but he will participate in the vetting.

"I'm thinking of inhibiting myself from the voting. It depends on the screening. It seems I'm the face of the impeachment. I participated in entire process. I'll think about it during the vote."

For now, Tupas said he will move to speed up the selection of the next Ombudsman. Under the Constitution, President Aquino has until August 6, or 3 months after the May6 effectivity of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez' resignation, to name a replacement.

"I will push for the fast tracking of process at JBC. I believe the last thing we need is a hiatus. Under the Ombudsman Act, the overall deputy ombudsman becomes acting ombudsman but we all know the deputy ombudsman has been signatory to 3 cases contained in the articles of impeachment and it's not a secret the new ombudsman might investigate the outgoing ombudsman," he said.

Tupas attended a JBC meeting this morning where it was agreed that the JBC will take judicial notice of the resignation of  Gutierrez and start the selection process immediately.

"It was agreed we will take judicial notice of resignation effective May 6 and council gave authority to publish vacancy within the Office of the Ombudsman as soon as council receives formal letter this week," he said.

Tupas said the JBC is of the opinion that the next Ombudsman will serve a full term. "The consensus is because of the Ombudsman Act, the consensus of the council is the new Ombudsman to be appointed should serve full term of 7 years."

He revealed another issue that was discussed was the fate of Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez, Deputy Ombudsman for Military and other Law Enforcement Offices.

"Based on info received by the council, no motion for reconsideration was filed by Gonzalez before the Office of the President. He filed petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. I raised the point that, for all intents and purposes, position of MOLEO is already vacant but council deferred action till next meeting," he said.

So far, there are no applicants for the position of Ombudsman. Tupas said it could be because of the expectation on the next holder of the position as well as the experience of Gutierrez.

"Few people will fit in the Office of the Ombudsman after (Gutierrez). You should not be a classmate of the president,  shouldn't be a relative, should possess unquestionable integrity. Question which I will ask in interview of applicants isn't only question prosecute allies of former administration but is the new ombudsman willing to prosecute allies of the present administration?"