MANILA - One of the contenders for a vacant seat in the Supreme Court (SC) is facing a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Court Administrator Midas Marquez has a pending graft case over alleged questionable fund releases, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) learned Thursday through Rizza Joy Laurea, an oppositor to the court official's bid.
Laurea's complaint before the Ombudsman is anchored on the same ground she raised against Marquez in the opposition she had filed with the JBC flagging Marquez's alleged questionable fund disbursements at the high court, including the latter's office, in connection with the World Bank-funded Judicial Reform Support Project (JRSP).
Marquez denied any hand in the World Bank projects, stressing he was not the disbursing officer in any of them.
He said allegations in Laurea’s opposition were “hearsay, unsubstantiated, misplaced” and “[a]t best, they are recycled non-issues,” even as he stressed that the World Bank project has been “closed and terminated without any issue.”
Despite Laurea’s opposition, the JBC shortlisted Marquez for the post to be vacated by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. on August 8 after the court administrator submitted his reply.
The shortlist will be submitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte to choose his appointee within 90 days from the date of the vacancy.
Marquez was also shortlisted for the impending vacancy by the justices of the high court prior to the JBC voting.
A JBC voting member explained that Laurea’s opposition and her subsequent complaint with the Ombudsman could not be a ground for Marquez's disqualification because he is under the disciplinary authority only of the Supreme Court.
Laurea also urged the JBC to look into SC Associate Justice Samuel Martires’ Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs), alleging that he did not declare a commercial stall at Maharlika Building in Baguio City.
Martires’ camp, however, told reporters he declared the leased stall among his investments in his SALNs, and not under ‘property’ because he did not own it. Martires has already terminated the lease on the stall.
DE CASTRO BIASED?
Laurea told reporters her group would form a coalition to hold to task the “judiciary system” and call out several justices for “various issues.”
“We will be launching a social media campaign for pushing for a clean judicial system in the Philippines kasi marami nang nagiging (because there are many emerging) issues involving our justices,” she said.
For one, Laurea said she believes Associate Justice Teresita De Castro displayed bias in deliberations on the quo warranto case that led to the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice in May.
NO LINKS TO SERENO
Laurea, however, insisted she has no ties with Sereno, despite her moves against perceived “enemies” of the ousted chief magistrate.
“This is actually a consensus of my organization, Group of Unified Youth for Social Change… ang aking pinagkukuhanan ng (where I draw) inspiration in doing this is the organization itself who wants to push for genuine change.”
Laurea described herself as a gender equality advocate who has taken up an advocacy for judicial issues, which she said she took on “on behalf of the Filipino people.”