Duterte appoints Martires as new Ombudsman

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2018 06:01 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2018 12:12 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte administers the oath of office on newly-appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires during a simple ceremony at the Music Room of Malacañang Palace on March 8, 2017. Toto Lozano, Malacañang Photo/File

 Martires on appointment: 'Who isn't ready for it?'

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires is the new Ombudsman.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday named his first appointee to the top court as the country's new anti-graft chief, succeeding Conchita Carpio Morales.

“Do what is right,” Duterte said in a speech in Zamboanga Sibugay, addressing Martires.

Duterte also described Martires as “strict” and “bright.” He said he expects Martires to be "fair" in the discharge of his function as the country's new graft-buster.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Martires said news of him as the next Ombudsman has not sunk in yet but noted that he expects a lot of work to be done.

He quipped: "Who isn't ready for it?"

Prior to his appointment, Martires was endorsed by 11 justices of the high court to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body tasked to screen applicants for the post.

Given his appointment to the Ombudsman post, the 69-year-old Martires will have to go on early retirement from the judiciary as he has yet to reach the mandatory age of retirement of 70.

He will serve a 7-year term.

Martires obtained his law degree from San Beda College, the President's alma mater. 

He served as a trial court judge in Agoo, La Union prior to his appointment to the Sandiganbayan on October 15, 2005 by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In 2011, Martires penned the Sandiganbayan decision that junked graft charges against then-Davao City Mayor Duterte over the demolition of a park built by his political rival, Prospero Nograles.

A year later, Martires wrote the Sandiganbayan decision dismissing a P50-billion damage suit filed by the Philippine government 24 years later against the Marcoses, former Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin and several others in relation to the so-called Binondo Central Bank (BCB) during martial law.

He was also among the Sandiganbayan justices who handed down the decision approving the plea bargain deal entered into by alleged plunderer retired Major General Carlos Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Earlier this year, Martires joined the majority of Supreme Court magistrates who voted for the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice via a grant of Solicitor General Jose Calida's "quo warranto" petition.

The Coalition for Justice, a group that supported Sereno, criticized his appointment as Ombudsman.

"As Justice of the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court, his decisions have been suspiciously aligned with the interests of this and previous administrations," said the group, headed by lead convenor Caloy Magsakay Diño.

"Considering his track record, the new Ombudsman gives us little hope that the corrupt within the Duterte Administration will be brought to justice."

It cited Martires' decisions such as when he voted in favor of the martial law in Mindanao and the continued imprisonment of Sen. Leila de Lima.

The group also said Martires refused to inhibit himself from the ouster petition against Sereno "despite clear demonstration of bias, and faith-shamed her during the oral arguments."

-- With reports from Arianne Merez and Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News