PNoy returns JBC shortlist for Sandiganbayan justice

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2014 07:50 PM | Updated as of Jun 20 2014 03:50 AM

MANILA - Just like what former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did in 2009, President Benigno Aquino III has returned to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) its shortlist of nominees for a vacancy in one of the country's top courts.

In a statement on Thursday, Jose Emmanuel David Eva III, Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Executive Secretary, explained why Aquino returned the JBC shortlist.

"Our objective is to find the right people for the most vital and sensitive positions in the Judiciary. In light of information we received during our vetting process, we have requested the JBC to further review and evaluate the candidates for the vacancy in the Sandiganbayan," Eva said.

Eva also explained why the Chief Executive missed the 90-day period for him to name a new Sandiganbayan justice.

"The Office of the Executive Secretary is tasked with vetting the candidates for positions in the Judiciary submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council, such as those forwarded for the vacancy in the Sandiganbayan. Extra efforts to vet the individuals in the shortlist were necessary, given the importance of appointing competent, honest jurists to higher courts like the Sandiganbayan, our country's anti-graft court."

Eva gave no further details.

The vacant post is due to the appointment of Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang as the Presiding Justice of the anti-graft court on Oct. 1, 2013.

The shortlist for the Sandiganbayan vacant post is composed of the following:

Department of Justice (DOJ) Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III,
Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento,
Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Maryann Corpus-Manalac,
Quezon City RTC Judge Bernelito Fernandez,
Antipolo RTC Judge Ronaldo Martin,
Makati RTC Judge Andres Soriano,
Manila RTC Judge Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, and
Assistant Solicitor General Marissa Macaraig Guillen.

Article 8, Section 4 of the Charter mandates the President to appoint members of the High Tribunal within 90 days upon the occurrence of a vacancy.

Back in 2009, Arroyo failed to appoint on time replacements to then retiring Supreme Court Associate Justices Alicia Austria-Martinez and Dante Tinga.

On July 24 of that year, six days before the appointment period for the vacancy of Austria-Martinez lapsed, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita returned the shortlist to the JBC.

Ermita asked for additional names as the president "could not be too careful about the selection and appointment of justices to the SC."

The six original nominees of the JBC for the SC were University of Santo Tomas (UST) law dean Roberto Abad, Court of Appeals (CA) Justices Martin Villarama, Mariano del Castillo and Hakim Abdulwahid, Sandiganbayan Justice Francisco Villaruz, and real estate businessman Rodolfo Robles.

Senator Francis Escudero, ex-officio member of the JBC then, told that the body did not touch on Arroyo's liabilities in violating the 90-day appointment period, adding "that is up for the executive to face in a proper case."

Escudero, however, held the personal view that the President "may" have infringed the 1987 Constitution by neglecting to fulfill her duty to immediately appoint an SC justice.