There’s a crucial spot open at the Office of the Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is screening 8 applicants for the crucial vacancy of Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Gerard Mosquera, an appointee of former president Benigno Aquino III, retired on June 1, leaving open a coveted post at the anti-graft agency.

The Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon is the signing authority for indictments of public officials in Luzon, before the resolution is transmitted to the Ombudsman for final approval.

Deputy ombudsmen can dictate the pace, and even the outcome, of a case. Whoever is appointed will hold the post for 7 years.

Two lawyers allied with the Duterte administration are applying for Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon: former justice undersecretary Erickson Balmes and Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) executive director Eduardo Bringas.

Balmes is President Rodrigo Duterte’s fraternity brother at Lex Taleonis, and was one of Vitaliano Aguirre II’s recruits at the justice department. He resigned from the Department of Justice (DOJ) upon the orders of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra when he took over the agency.

Bringas, before he was appointed to the PACC, was the lawyer of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who filed the drug charges that sent opposition senator Leila de Lima to jail.

Other applicants are Ombudsman prosecutor Jacinto dela Cruz, Ombudsman Deputy Special Prosecutor Cornelio Somido, former Bureau of the Resident Ombudsman director Rafael Hipolito, defense lawyer Eusebio Avila and Rodolfo Quimbo, the Senate blue ribbon committee director general at the height of the pork barrel scam. 

The applicants were interviewed on May 23, but the interviews were not made public.

Aside from being Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, Mosquera also headed the Ombudsman’s Internal Affairs Board (IAB), which handles disciplinary cases against Ombudsman employees and officials.

The IAB handled an investigation into Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, who was fired by Malacañang for alleged breach of confidentiality in the investigation into the Duterte wealth.

The IAB’s investigation into Carandang has no known result as of yet, and the enforcement of Carandang’s dismissal remains a grey area because of a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that bars Malacañang from disciplining deputy ombudsmen.

Carandang, an Aquino appointee, will finish his term in 2020. All Aquino appointees as well, the other 3 deputy ombudsmen – Paul Elmer Clemente, Rodolfo Elman and Cyril Ramos – will all finish their term in 2021. –

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 or tweet @lianbuan.