MANILA, Philippines—An association of corporate lawyers called on the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to exercise great care in choosing the next Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan following the nomination of an outsider with close ties to Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas.
During last week’s interview of Sandiganbayan top post aspirants, one of the candidates, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rafael Santos, said his decision to apply for the judicial post has a go-ahead signal from Roxas. Santos made the remark after one of the JBC members asked if it was okay for Roxas to lose an able undersecretary.
“A nominee for the Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan who openly admitted that he had obtained the ‘blessings’ of a political patron before applying for the said post is clearly not suited for the role. More so if that same nominee was previously a senior partner in a law firm known for its political ties,” lawyer Maribert Q. Pagente, president of the Legal Management Council of the Philippines (LMCP), said in a letter to the JBC dated June 24.
The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen aspirants to the Judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.
Santos was Transportation Undersecretary for Operations when Roxas was the DOTC chief.
When Roxas succeeded Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash off Masbate in August last year, he appointed Santos as DILG Undersecretary.
“The Sandiganbayan’s mission is to give life and meaning to the constitutional precept that a public office is a public trust and to impress upon the public offices and employees that they are at all times accountable to the people,” Pagente said.
“It is a basic precept of judicial ethics that a judge, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion. He must not only be impartial but should also appear impartial,” the letter read.
Pagente said he has nothing against any of the nominees for the Sandiganbayan post.
“However, I believe that great care should be taken in the selection of the next Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan to preserve the credibility of the institution,” he added.
Aside from Santos, others vying for the post vacated by Presiding Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr. include Court of Appeals Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas, Sandiganbayan Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Atty. Jsper Lucero, Sandiganbayan Justice Efren Dela Cruz, Sandiganbayan Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos, Gregory Ong and Alex Quiroz.
On July 1, the JBC will come up with a shortlist of candidates which will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III, who will pick the next Presiding Justice.