Martires to prioritize speedy resolution of cases as new Ombudsman

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“My priorities will be the pending cases, the issue on inordinate delay which has been an issue that has been haunting the Sandiganbayan as well as the Supreme Court. I will immediately look into that and the causes for the delay,” Martires told reporters after attending his last flag-raising ceremony as a magistrate of the High Court.

Martires said he has tasked Ombudsman Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval to look into pending cases, which already exceeded the prescribed resolution period.

He added that he would meet with Ombudsman officials to discuss the system that he would implement, which aims to eliminate inordinate delay in the resolution of cases.

The country’s new anti-graft buster also vowed to look into corrupt activities revealed by former Ombudsman official, lawyer Edna Batacan.

Batacan, who also vied for the Ombudsman post, revealed that there is a “parking fee” for complaints filed at the office.

This refers to the amount to be paid to Ombudsman investigators to delay the result of investigation.

“And as what I have told you I will be demanding, not requesting, from Atty. Edna Batacan for her to identify the officer or employee that she gave money (to)” the 69-year-old Martires said.

Asked about possible charges against Batacan, Martires said: “I don’t want to go into that at the moment. I just want her to cooperate with us.”

Martires said he has relayed the matter to Sandoval and Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang.

The issue about Batacan came out after lawyer Ferdinand Topacio asked the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to remove her from its shortlist of nominees for Ombudsman, accusing her of charging a client PHP8 million for the dismissal of complaints then pending at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Topacio, in a letter, said Batacan persuaded her client to pay the said amount, which was allegedly being requested by certain persons in the Ombudsman.

However, when the supposed effort to fix the case failed, she was not able to return the money, Topacio said.

Both Topacio and Batacan are known to have had former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo for a client.

Martires replaces former SC Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, who retired on July 26 after finishing a full seven-year term as Ombudsman.

As per Morales, there are 6,000 pending cases t the Ombudsman as of December last year as compared to the 19,000 cases, which she inherited when she was appointed as Ombudsman by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2011.

Being SC justice, Ombudsman is God’s gift

Martires said he considers his appointment to the High Court and now as Ombudsman as an opportunity given by God.

“I was just an ordinary lawyer fortunate to serve the judiciary. I never expected that I will be appointed as associate justice,” Martires said, as he made his farewell speech during the Supreme Court’s flag raising ceremony before assuming his new position as Ombudsman.

Di ko inaasahan na darating ang araw na makakatrabaho ko mga mahistrado na magaling (I did not expect that the day when I will get to work with brilliant magistrates will come) — (Presbitero) Velasco, (Estela Perlas) Bernabe, (Mariano) Del Castillo, (Teresita Leonardo) De Castro. Di ko akalain makakasama ko si (I never expected that I will have the chance to work with) Justice (Antonio) Carpio,” he added.

“It’s my belief that all these happened because it is God’s will. Otherwise, I would not have been appointed (as) Ombudsman,” he later told reporters.

Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had called out Martires, President Rodrigo Duterte’s first appointee to the High Court, for allegedly mocking her faith during the oral arguments of the Supreme Court on the quo warranto petition brought against her.

Martires, who is among the seven justices who voted to oust Sereno via quo warranto proceedings, flatly denied the allegation as he clarified that he actually wanted to point out that Sereno’s religiosity had nothing to do with her supposed unstable mental state.

Of all the aspirants to the Ombudsman post, he got the unanimous recommendation from his colleagues.

“The reason why I got 11 votes is because ayaw na nila sa akin (They also did not want me to stay here),” Martires said jokingly.

“I leave it up to God, if God decides what is best for me for after all he’s the only one who knows what is best for me. I found it normal for these people who criticize and continue to criticize me. Criticizing has become a pastime among us, anger has become the role of Filipinos who have nothing to do or is not doing anything. Our hearts are filled with anger and resentment, we always love to criticize without even offering some suggestion,” he noted. -PNA

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