Bello obtains Ombudsman clearance just in time for JBC interview

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III was able to present on Wednesday, June 20, an Ombudsman clearance that states he no longer has pending cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Fortunately, I found out yesterday that the cases have been resolved in our favor,” Bello told the panel of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) which was interviewing him and other applicants to replace Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

Rappler earlier reported that according to Ombudsman records, Bello had two pending cases, a criminal case undergoing preliminary investigation, and an administrative case undergoing adjudication.

Ombudsman graft prosecution officer Rhia Aladin dismissed the case on May 15, which was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on June 14, according to the copy of the resolution released to media on Thursday, June 21.

Bello said that the cases stemmed from a contract in 1988 involving what is now called the Philippine Reclamation Authority where he served as general manager.

The contract did not push through, and there was a need to forfeit a performance bond. 

“Nagtataka ‘yung investigator ng Ombudsman na hindi inaksyunan ‘yung forfeiture nung bond, that happened in 1988. Lahat ng kinasuhan, mga chairman of the board, including myself where I was general manager…The reason why I never acted in this forfeiture, it never came to my attention, Bello said.

(The Ombudsman investigators are wondering why the forfeiture of the bond was not acted upon, that happened in 1988. All of those sued, the chairmen of the board, including myself, where I was general manager.)

Section 5, Rule 4 of the JBC's rules and regulations states that a person who has "pending criminal or regular administrative cases" is "disqualified from being nominated for appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman."

Bello’s Ombudsman clearance would presumably get him out the disqualification danger zone.

LOOK: Bello obtained his Ombudsman clearance only yesterday June 19, 2018. He said at the time of application he submitted an old clearance. JBC requires Ombudsman clearances else incomplete applications shall not be entertained. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/qjlWhpbmtZ — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) June 20, 2018

Timeline of clearance

Below is the timeline of his application and clearance.

October 19, 2017 - Ombudsman's Field Investigation Office files the complaint for a preliminary investigation

On or before May 15, 2018 – Bello sends his application as Ombudsman

May 15, 2018 - Ombudsman prosecution officer Rhia Aladin dismisses the case

May 28, 2018 – Ombudsman records reply to our query and confirm that Bello has two pending cases as of that date

June 14, 2018 – JBC announces the list of applicants who will be interviewed. This affirms that it has not automatically disqualified Bello.

June 14, 2018 – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approves the dismissal of case vs Bello

June 18, 2018 – This is the date stated on Bello’s clearance. “As of June 18, 2018, our records show that Silvestre Hernando Bello III has no pending criminal and administrative cases with the Office of the Ombudsman,” the clearance says.

June 19, 2018 – Bello obtains the clearance

June 20, 2018 – Bello undergoes the JBC public interview

Morales told reporters on Thursday that the cases were already "ripe" for resolution.

"They kept on filing motions for early resolution. Perhaps, they were confident the case did not merit serious consideration," Morales said.

There have been questions about why his application pushed through if he obtained the clearance only on June 19.

The JBC's announcement of an opening for the position of Ombudsman required applicants to submit an Ombudsman clearance, also indicating that those whose "other documents which are incomplete, out of date, or without a transmittal letter, shall not be given due course."

Bello said he sent an old Ombudsman clearance when he applied. 

JBC regular member Jose Mejia said: "It's a complete [application] even though he only submitted a certification. Definitely, I can say without any qualification that applications will not be entertained if requirements are not complete."

Bello told the JBC that being Ombudsman is his “last chance” to help President Rodrigo Duterte in the administration’s anti-corruption campaign.

Bello said he will institutionalize a timeline to address the slow disposition of cases at the Ombudsman. He also said he agrees with Malacañang that the President can exercise disciplinary powers over Deputy Ombudsmen, contrary to a Supreme Court ruling.

Asked if he is then inclined to enforce Malacañang’s suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang – an order that Morales defied – Bello said he still would have to assess the facts of the case.

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– Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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