GMA names Moslemen Macarambon, Sr. as Comelec Commissioner

Malacanang submitted the names of former Senator  Rene Saguisag and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez,  College of Law Dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East, Howard Calleja of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Comelec Law Department head Alioden Dalaig and one Severo Maluenda.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told reporters in Manila that they were surprised with the appointment as Macarambon was not on the list, but said it was a “positive affirmation” on the part of government, because representation of the Moro in government is one of the provisions under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The Philippine Star reported Thursday that Macarambon “has been in the judiciary for over 30 years.” His CV shows he was named judge in 1989.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s entry last Thursday on Macarambon was entitled “Moslemen Macarambon who?”

Senator Panfilo Lacson alleged Macarambon is a protégé of Virgilio Garcillano, the former Comelec Commissioner behind the “Hello Garci” controversy involving President Arroyo but Macarambon denied this.

He told ANC: “I’m not surprised because I am qualified to the post. I applied more than a year ago and I have been a Regional Trial Court judge for more than 18 years… I was recommended by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court.”

Macarambon told ANC he applied for the job as early as July 2006.

Website searches actually yield more results for Moslemen Macarambon, Jr., son of the newly-elected Commissioner, whose first entry on the issue, dated November 1, was  “Son of Comelec Commissioner,” where he announced his father’s appointment. He later dispatched two photographs.

Macarambon, Jr., released a copy of his father’s curriculum vitae on Friday.

The CV shows Macarambon Sr. graduated from elementary as salutatorian of the Iligan City South Central School in 1962,  from high school as second honorable mention at the Mindanao State University in 1966, Bachelor of Arts from the Manuel L. Quezon University in 1970, Bachelor of Laws from University of the East in 1974 and “Master of Laws (without Thesis)” from the MLQU in 1988.

The elder Macarambon passed the bar in 1974,  joined the Muslim Legal Assistance Group in Rizal Avenue, Manila until 1978, served as legal officer and trial attorney of the National Housing Authority in Quezon City from 1978 to 1980, then moved to be division chief of the Legal Office of the Farm Systems Development Corporation in Pasig, Metro Manila from 1980 to 1984.

Within the same period, from 1982 to 1984, he served as consultant of the Laguna Lake Development Authority also in Pasig.

He returned to Iligan City for a year from 1984 to 1985 to serve as an instructor at the St. Michael’s College, teaching Obligations and Contracts, Insurance Law, Negotiable Instruments.

In 1986, he returned to Manila to serve as executive assistant of then Senator Mamintal Tamano until 1988. During the same period, he worked as managing partner of the Tamano and Associates, Inc. in Makati.

From 1988 to 1989, Macarambon Sr., served as executive assistant in the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

He returned to Lanao in September 1989, having been appointed Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, in Malabang, Lanao del Sur.

Macarambon Jr., said in addition to his father’s duties in Malabang, “he was assigned to the following stations: RTC, Branch 11, Malabang, Lanao del Sur- Acting Presiding Judge for more than 7 years;  RTC, Branch 5, Iligan City- Acting Presiding Judge for more than 2 years; RTC, Branch 3, Iligan City- Acting Presiding Judge for more than a year; RTC, Branch 8, Marawi City- Acting Presiding Judge for four months; RTC, Branch 23, Cagayan de Oro City- Assisting Judge for nine months; RTC, Branch 7, Tubod, Lanao del Norte- Acting Presiding Judge for one year; RTC, Branch 4, Iligan City- Acting Presiding Judge from May 27, 2003- October 2, 2003.

On October 3, 2003, President Arroyo named Macarambon Sr., presiding Judge of the RTC Branch 4 in Iligan City.

There is no mention of a date of retirement but Macarambon Jr.,’s announcement in his blog about his father’s appointment, referred to the latter as “former RTC Judge in Iligan City.”

Macarambon Jr., listed these other activities his father involved in: as president of the Maranaw Law Students Federation, Manila from 1972- 1973; elected Congressman of the College of Law, UE Students’ Congress – 1971-1972; vice President Mindanao, Sulu Palawan Association – 1971- 1972; member: Tau Lambda Kappa Fraternity, Exclusive UE Law Fraternity; member: Board of Directors, Philippine Judges Association – 2001- 2003 and vice Chairman, Iligan City Council, Boy Scouts of the Philippines- 2006- present.

Macarambon Jr. also said his father was a “consistent scholar for eight years” of the Commission on National Integration and was awarded by the Philippine Trial Lawyers Association as “One of the Ten Outstanding RTC Judges in 1997; and became a Hall of Fame Awardee of the  University of the East Law Alumni Association on December 5, 2003 at the Manila Hotel.

The Macarambons had apparently expected the appointment. Macarambon Jr., said his father’s appointment to the Comelec has been mentioned since January this year. “But his appointment was delayed because of the upcoming National Election last May. I believe it was delayed because the time of his appointment to avoid election issues like what the Manila Star reported.”

He actually meant the Manila Times which reported on January 18 this year that Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros said her group has received reports from “reliable sources” that the Palace “was deciding who between Judge Moslemen Macarambon of Ilogan City or Maguindanao Provincial Prosecutor Salick Panda to name as the replacement of retired Commissioner Mehol Sadain.”

Hontiveros was reported to have said the new appointment will happen “right before the campaign period starts” on February 12, the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy.

“Both Macarambon and Panda are from the judiciary, but they’re also known in Mindanao as politicians. This last-minute and silent appointment in the Comelec will complete the administration’s cheating machinery. This also contradicts the President’s statement that the government will be transparent with its Comelec appointments,” the Times reported Hontiveros as saying.

Macarambon Jr., said he wanted to “blog about it (Manila Times report) to defend my dad but I just (kept) silent since my dad (has not been) appointed and I believe my dad is a good man and public servant” and that his father is the “fiercest and the most feared judge in Lanao Province because of his integrity.”

Macarambon Jr., said that with the elections over – national/local and barangay/Sangguniang Kabataan, “I think this is the right and due time to appoint him.”

In its report, the PCIJ posted a link to a Supreme Court decision in a case involving Judge Macarambon and his son Sonny Ambrosi , which gives glimpses into the person of the newly-appointed Comelec Commissioner.

“We leave it to readers to make their own conclusions,” the PCIJ said.

The case was about an incident on September 4, 1998, when Judge Macarambon and his son, Sonny Ambrosi, boarded Trans-Asia Shipping Lines’ MV Asia-Brunei at the port of Cebu bound for Malabang, Lanao del Sur but were not accommodated in the vessel’s ambassador suite as this was previously booked. As it turned out, the original ship the Macarambons were supposed to board was denied clearance at the port and the replacement, MV Asia-Brunei, had a smaller capacity, hence not all passengers could be accommodated.

The SC resolution on November 24, 1999 noted that Trans-Asia, through its legal officer, “apologized for the inconvenience and informed respondents that if the offered accommodation would not be acceptable to them, petitioner would be willing to refund the ticket. Despite the offer, Judge Moslemen Macarambon became furious and expressed his intention to bring the matter to court. Brandishing his calling card to petitioner’s employee, respondent judge said: ‘You know I am a judge. You should have accommodated me first.’  Respondents immediately disembarked from the vessel.”

The resolution also noted that Trans-Asia’s attempt to reach an amicable settlement with respondents failed “because the latter demanded big amounts” – P150,000 for the father and P100,000 for the son.

On January 27, 1999, the son sued Trans-Asia for breach of contract and damages, in his father’s court, a venue questioned by Trans-Asia.

On September 1, 1999, the high court issued a resolution granting Trans-Asia’s petition for change of venue to Cagayan de Oro and authorizing Executive Judge Noli T. Catlito raffle the case among the regional trial court branches.

The Supreme Court ordered Judge Macarambon “to explain, within ten days from receipt of notice, why he took cognizance of the civil case despite the fact that it involved his son Sonny Ambrosi Macarambon, and it arose out of an incident in which he was personally involved, as well as to comment on the report of petitioner regarding his unjudicial conduct in that incident.”

The Supreme Court said Macarambon, under the Rules of Court, “is disqualified to sit in any case in which his child is pecuniarily interested or in which he is related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)