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SC endorses one of its own as next Ombudsman

The Supreme Court has thrown its full support behind one of its own to be the country’s next top graft buster.

In its weekly full-court session on Tuesday, the high tribunal “unanimously recommended” Associate Justice Samuel Martires to succeed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, herself a former justice, when Morales’ seven-year tenure as Ombudsman ends on July 26.

Martires was among three Sandiganbayan justices who had approved the controversial plea bargain deal between retired military comptroller Carlos Garcia and then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in February 2010.

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In 2016, the Court of Appeals upheld the legality of Garcia’s compromise agreement with the Ombudsman.

“He obtained 11 votes of the 12 justices who were present (during the deliberations),” Theodore Te, the high court’s spokesperson, said in a news briefing.

Abstention

Martires did not take part in the voting while Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa were absent, Te added.

Two other aspirants to Morales’ post, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Ombudsman Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval, received three and four votes, from the justices.

The antigraft court Sandiganbayan, which Sandoval then headed as presiding justice, approved the P135.4-million plea bargain deal between Garcia and government prosecutors.

The compromise deal, which involved the return of Garcia’s ill-gotten wealth to the state, allowed the former military general to evade trial for a P303-million plunder case.

Sandoval retired from the judiciary in 2011 after 15 years in the Sandiganbayan, but was designated by President Duterte as special prosecutor last year.

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He replaced Wendell Barreras-Sulit, who was sacked by former President Benigno Aquino III over the plea bargain deal with Garcia.

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