Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez is facing a complaint of graft and violation of Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees before the Office of the Ombudsman over his alleged misuse of a $21.9-million loan from the World Bank.
Rjhay Laurea, founder of the Group of Unified Youth for Social Change, filed the complaint against Marquez, citing a 2012 World Bank audit report that $199,900 covering 70 payments were deemed to be “ineligible or unauthorized” under the terms of judicial reform support project.
Marquez, however, denied the accusation, which he described as “baseless and recycled” issue.
“It’s an old recycled issue that does not even involve me. In fact, the JBC has already disregarded this,” Midas said in a statement.
“The World Bank project and its funds never passed me despite my numerous positions. That was under the Program Management Office or PMO, which was never under my watch,” he added.
The loan, which was approved by the World Bank in 2003, was intended for the judicial reform support project designed to restore efficiency in the dispensation of justice.
“They used these funds for goodwill games, for allowances and travel expenses, when these funds were intended for judicial reform in expediting cases,” Laurea said.
She said 16 of the ineligible expenditures “relate” to the Office of the Court Administrator, headed by Marquez.
“This senior official, due to the combination of his appointments and functions, was the requestor of the services, the approver of the terms of reference, the end-user of the services provided by the firm, the authorizer of contract extensions, and the authorizer of payments to the firm,” the complaint read.
The World Bank conducted an audit on the Supreme Court’s judicial reform support in 2012.
Laurea said she knew Marquez was the one being referred to by the World Bank, adding he sued only Marquez because he was the court administrator, public information officer and bids and awards committee chairperson.
She said Marquez must “always uphold public interest.”
“He even spent the judicial reform support project allowance on expanding his influence with court insiders such as meals, accommodations, airfare and allowances for justices, conference registrations, computer equipment, and goodwill games,” she said.
“The judicial reform support project is a missed opportunity for judicial reform. The noble aim of the World Bank in funding the judicial reform support project is to foster public trust and confidence to the Philippine judicial system. Yet, this noble intention has been crippled by the unyielding and misplaced control of the implementation of the project by respondent Marquez.”
Marquez is vying to replace Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., who will retire in August.
In June, Laurea sent a letter to the Judicial and Bar Council objecting Marquez’s candidacy for the post of associate justice, saying he was “unfit” to the post over his involvement in “ineligible expenses” incurred by the Supreme Court.
Marquez, meanwhile, said he had already addressed the charges in the letter he submitted to the JBC chaired by Acting Chief Justice and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
He cited the failure of the accuser “to identify the specific questionable contracts and services, the particular terms of reference, the said questionable services provided, the firm providing the questionable services, the particular contracts which were supposedly extended, and the payments allegedly authorized by the undersigned.”
“All the accusations, aside from being hearsay and unsubstantiated, are misplaced. At best, they are recycled non-issues,” he explained, adding that the same issue was already raised in December 2011 during the impeachment of the late chief justice Renato Corona.
The seven-member JBC apparently did not buy the insinuations against Marquez as it shortlisted him for the SC post after he obtained six votes.
The others in the shortlist were Court of Appeals Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr., Amy Lazaro-Javier, Ramon Garcia, Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas, Rosmari Carandang and Ramon Hernando; and former Ateneo law school dean Cesar Villanueva.
Marquez had testified in the impeachment cases against Sereno in the House of Representatives, along with several justices of the High Court.
Marquez started his career in the SC in 1991 as a law clerk for several justices, including retired Associate Justice Abraham Sarmiento, Senior Justice, and former Philippine Judicial Academy chancellor Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, and retired Senior Justice Josue Bellosillo, and rose from the ranks and appointed court administrator in 2010.
Marquez served as spokesman of the high court during the tenures of retired chief justice Reynato Puno and Corona.