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Successor of Morales

Duterte’s former lawyer front-runner for Ombudsman post, says Roque

/ 07:02 AM June 22, 2018

President Duterte’s former lawyer Edna Batacan is reportedly the leading candidate in the search for a new Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is retiring next month.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday that he believed Batacan was the “front-runner,” although he had not talked with President Duterte about the search for a new graft buster.

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President’s trust

“I think so, because as a practicing lawyer, a client would trust his lawyer the most,” Roque said in a television interview, referring to Batacan.

He said Batacan had the trust and confidence of the President, as she had represented President Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City.

Roque said the 65-year-old Batacan would “definitely” be on the list of nominees that the Judicial Bar and Council (JBC) would send to the President after it had wrapped up its vetting of candidates.

‘Ripe for resolution’

Roque said there were two other candidates—Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III—and he also saw them making it to the JBC list.

Bello’s application has been bolstered by Morales’ dismissal on June 14 of a graft complaint filed against him in connection with his stint as general manager of the Philippine Reclamation Authority.

Morales, however, told reporters on Thursday that she dismissed the case not to clear the way for Bello’s application but because it was already “ripe for resolution.”

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On her qualifications, Roque said Batacan was a litigator and as such she was fit to become Ombudsman.

Asked whether Batacan would be biased for the President, Roque said that while “everyone was biased in this world,” he believed she would do her constitutional duty to uphold the law.

Roque said he would have applied for the job of Ombudman had he known that Solicitor General Jose Calida did not apply for it.

“I would have wanted, I would have loved that post,” he said.

Seniority tradition

In the same TV interview, Roque said he believed President Duterte would not pick an outsider for a new Chief Justice and would honor the seniority tradition on the Supreme Court.

“[The President] would have to choose among the 14 sitting justices, lest he repeats the mistake of Maria Lourdes Sereno all over again,” Roque said, adding that the ousted Chief Justice “never got the respect of her colleagues because No. 1, she was not really a career litigator even more so a judge, and No. 2, she was very young.”

He said President Duterte would actually have only 11 justices to choose from because Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had begged off, while two other justices would retire soon.

But because the President would honor the court’s seniority tradition, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen is out of contention, as he is “too young and too junior” to be considered, Roque said. —REPORTS FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND VINCE F. NONATO

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TAGS: Conchitina Carpio Morales, Edna Batacan, Ombudsman
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