Sereno warns Ombudsman post could be used for 'political vendetta'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 19) — The former Chief Justice is worried the next Ombudsman will be used in political vendetta against the government's critics.

Speaking at an event of the Soroptimist International Philippines at the Manila Hotel Saturday, Maria Lourdes Sereno said: "Pwedeng gamitin ang posisyon na 'yan upang maningil (ng) political debts at maghasik ng political vendetta."

[Translation: That position could be used to call in political debts and wreak political vendetta.]

Sereno said this poses a threat to the country.

"Kung ang Ombudsman po ay pipilian dahil lang sa pulitika delikado po, hihina ang ating democracy," Sereno said.

[Translation:If the Ombudsman will be chosen based on political alliances, it will weaken our democracy.]

If she had it her way, she would choose someone who is fair, regardless of political allegiances.

"Ang Ombudsman ang prioridad niya ay palaganap sa paglaban sa kurapsyon," Sereno added.

[Translation: The Ombudsman's priority is to fight corruption.]

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has closed the nomination and application for the replacement for Ombudsman Conchita-Morales, who is set to retire on July 26.

Carpio-Morales will hang her robes seven years after former President Benigno Aquino III appointed her to the head the anti-graft court.

Among the applicants for the post are several personalities affiliated with or appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been vocal about his disapproval of Sereno.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier told CNN Philippines he is keen on taking the bigger challenge to help Duterte fight corruption.

Also vying for the post are Duterte's former legal counsel Edna Batacan, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires, the President's first appointee to the High Court.

The JBC has yet to announce the schedule of the public interviews.

Duterte has said he would consult the people at the Office of the Ombudsman as to who would be best for the position.

Sereno also women should be given an equal chance whether at the Office of the Ombudsman or Supreme Court.

This, after the President said Tuesday that he wanted the next Chief Justice to neither be a politician nor a woman.

Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque defended the President's comments, saying that what he heard was a question regarding the next Ombudsman.

CNN Philippines' Chad de Guzman and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.