MANILA (1st UPDATE) - Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Noel Tijam is joining Sandiganbayan's Samuel Martires as President Rodrigo Duterte's first appointees to the country's highest judicial body.
Tijam replaces Associate Justice Arturo Brion, who retired last December.
Tijam graduated Cum Laude and was class salutatorian at the San Beda College of Law, and was a classmate of Duterte.
Tijam was also Magna Cum Laude at San Beda College, with a degree in bachelor of arts, major in philosophy and political science.
He passed the Bar Examinations in 1971.
Tijam was one of three candidates shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) who got four votes. The seven people recommended by the JBC to the president was topped by CA Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang who got 6 votes.
During his interview at the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) last year, Tijam declined to answer if former President Benigno Aquino III should be held liable for the alleged illegal implementation of the P72-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
"Presidential immunity ceases when the president is no longer the incumbent. Whatever the opinion I share with you (JBC) might be resented by the few remaining friends I have at SC, and may be misconstrued as prejudgment,” he told the JBC in November.
He also reassured the panel that, if appointed, he will not allow his decisions to be influenced by the president, despite being former classmates.
In 2012, Tijam penned the CA decision which stopped the reopening of Banco Filipino and the infusion of P25 billion, through the central bank, to fund its rehabilitation.
He also penned the CA decision that junked former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan's petition that sought the nullification of his indictment for the Maguindanao massacre case.
In 2013, he wrote the decision affirming President Benigno Aquino III’s Executive Order No. 2, which nullified former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s so-called “midnight appointments” during the 2010 election ban.
Prior to presiding over cases at the CA starting 2003, Tijam was appointed in 1994 to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 221.
He is married to Ma. Cynthia Cornejo Tijam, and has 3 children and 4 grandchildren. --with reports from Willard Cheng and Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News