MANILA, Philippines - Instead of coursing his objection to the nomination of retired Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales for the post of Ombudsman through the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) during its selection process, Lauro Vizconde opted to write President Aquino.
Morales is one of 4 nominees in the JBC shortlist submitted to Malacañang recently.
In a 2-page letter dated July 6, 2011, Vizconde raised the issue on Morales being related to incumbent SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, founding partner of the Carpio Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco Law Office.
Carpio-Morales and Carpio are cousins.
"The said Law Office has clients that have cases filed and pending before the Office of the Ombudsman, thus, the element of bias and prejudice cannot be avoided and in fact, Justice Carpio-Morales is well-known to be identified with 'THE FIRM'. This is public knowledge in the legal circle," the letter read.
"In fact, I can rightfully say that Justice Carpio-Morales is a 'silent partnet' of 'THE FIRM,'" the letter read.
Vizconde shared the view of other oppositors to Morales' nomination that the retired magistrate does not have the necessary experience in the prosecution of criminal cases, "especially in the prosecution of anti-graft and corrupt practices cases in the Sandiganbayan."
Vizconde also said it was a demotion for a retired magistrate of the high court to sit as Ombudsman and appear before a lower court, the Sandiganbayan.
"It will be demeaning and unseemly, if not highly improper, for retired Justice Carpio-Morales to appear before the Sandiganbayan, a lower court with original and appellate jurisdiction which [is] under the administrative supervision and control of the Supreme Court of which Justice Carpio-Morales is a former member," the letter read.
Vizconde said he represented the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), which he co-founded, and assured Aquino of the group's continued support.
"We are solidly supporting you on your desire to eradicate corruption in our government. Hence, we deem it imperative to inform you about the background of Justice Carpio-Morales."
Carpio-Morales: Can't choose your kin
During her public interview with the JBC last June 23, Carpio-Morales answered all objections and issues raised against her by several oppositors.
She maintained her track record at the high tribunal can speak for her independence.
As to her blood relation with Carpio, Carpio-Morales said:"The famous line 'You cannot choose your relatives' bears stating. He is my relative but I don't ape him, neither does he ape me."
On the issue of her so-called lack of experience in prosecuting criminal cases, she said:"I was a trial judge in Camarines Sur, then in Pasay City. If it does not have anything to do with experience with prosecuting, I do not know what is."
Carpio-Morales also pointed out that her 12-year stint with the Department of Justice(DOJ) prepared her for the Ombudsman post.
As to the so-called demotion if appointed to the Ombudsman post, she stressed she is not a "title-conscious person."
"We must not see appointment of position on the point of view of ranking but on your contribution to the eradication of graft and corruption, such that the suffering of those among us, if not eradicated, is lessened... Going to the Ombudsman would not, in any way, diminish my self-respect," she said.
PNoy's list down to 2
The JBC was furnished on Wednesday (today) with a copy of Vizconde's letter to President Aquino.
The JBC had submitted four names to President Aquino for the Ombudsman post, namely Carpio-Morales, former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero, Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento and Presidential Commission on Good Government(PCGG) Commissioner Gerard Mosquera.
The president recently revealed he now has only 2 people in mind from the list of 4.
Mr. Aquino has until August 29 to appoint the new Ombudsman who will serve a full 7-year term.
The vacancy was brought about by the resignation in April of Merceditas Gutierrez, ahead of a Senate impeachment trial against her.