2 Dabawenyos in shortlist for Mindanao ombudsman

Davao City’s chief prosecutor Raul Bendigo and Digos City Executive Judge Marivic Trabajo-Daray are among four in the shortlist submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to President Arroyo this month, Atty. Marco Buena told MindaNews Thursday.

In the mid-1990s, Daray worked at the Mindanao Ombudsman’s office as Graft
Investigation Officer. As Regional Trial Court Judge in General Santos in
2002, she sentenced Fathur Rohman al-Gzohi, the alleged bomb expert of the
Jemaah Islamiyah,  to imprisonment of 10 to 12 years for illegal possession of
a ton of explosives and fined him P200,000. Al-ghozi had earlier pleaded
guilty to the charge. 

Chief City Prosecutor Raul Bendigo, brother-in-law of House Majority Floor Leader Prospero Nograles, rose from the ranks at the city prosecutor's office. He was the prosecutor who charged the American fugitive, Michael Meiring who was behind the hotel room bombing in 2002. In 2004, he was cited by a Cebu City lawmaker for achieving for Davao City the conviction of most number of persons for illegal drugs, based on a survey.

Also in the shortlist are two Ombudsman Manila officials, acting deputy special prosecutor Atty. Humprey Monteroso and assistant ombudsman Atty. Pelagio Apostol.

The JBC is headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.

President Arroyo is expected to name her choice on or before October 2 following the 90- day rule of replacing vacant posts. The post was declared vacant on July 4 at the end of Deputy Ombudsman Atty. Antonio Valenzuela's seven-year term.  

Thirteen candidates, seven from Mindanao and six from Luzon earlier applied for the post. The JBC interviewed the candidates on July 25.

Buena said the next Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao will be chosen for his or her qualifications and not necessarily because he/she comes from Mindanao. But he noted that, in 1999, Valenzuela, who served as graft investigator and director here, was chosen by President Estrada over Manila-based contenders, among them Assistant Ombudsman Billy Aportadera. Aportadera was initially based in Davao City but moved to Manila after EDSA 1986, having been named to the Commission on Human Rights.

The deputy ombudsman in Mindanao will head 85 employees, including 25 lawyers in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro. The Ombudsman plans to open an office in each of Mindanao's four other regions, Buena said.

The Office of the Ombudsman is mandated to investigate anomalies and inefficiency in government service, not only to do preliminary investigation but also to conduct the fact-finding investigation to gather evidence.

It is also tasked to prosecute graft cases before the courts. It has disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials, except members of Congress, the Judiciary and impeachable officials.

It has a graft prevention thrust and recently launched a whistleblowing campaign to increase citizen participation in curbing corruption.

As of now, all cases filed at the Ombudsman will be decided by Tanodbayan Merceditas Gutierrez.

Before, the deputy ombudsman decided on cases filed against officials in his jurisdiction — from barangay councilor to regional director.

The Ombudsman Mindanao announced last month the set up was just temporary. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)