MANILA, Philippines—The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is raising a cry against the possible appointment of a Sandiganbayan presiding justice known to have close ties with the head of rival Liberal Party, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco said he found something “sinister” with the inclusion of Rafael Santos on the shortlist of contenders for the position of Sandiganbayan presiding justice. Santos got the most number of votes from the Judicial and Bar Council despite objections from a civil society group due to his political ties, said Tiangco.
Santos is an undersecretary at the DILG, and was appointed to the post by Roxas. He also used to be an undersecretary at the Department of Transportation and Communications when Roxas headed this department, Tiangco cited.
Santos also used to work for the influential Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo, and Angangco law office, popularly referred to as “The Firm.”
Tiangco expressed fears that Santos’ possible appointment as top justice at the antigraft court might compromise pending cases against his Liberal Party allies. Conversely, rivals of the ruling party could be unfairly treated, he said.
“If he will be the next presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan, then it is most likely that allies will be treated with kid gloves, and iron fists for known adversaries,” he argued.
He said he hopes President Aquino would skip Santos when selecting the next Presiding Justice, adding that the Sandiganbayan leader must be someone who is above suspicion.
“If we are serious in cleaning up the judiciary and instituting genuine reforms in the judicial system, we have to pick those who have unquestionable character and integrity,” he said.
“We see two roads diverging in the woods: one is a tuwid na daan [straight and righteous path], and one a super expresslane,” he added.
The others on the JBC shortlist for the next Sandiganbayan presiding justice are Court of Appeals Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas and Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Amparo Tang, Efren de la Cruz and Gregory Ong.
Should Santos be appointed the next presiding justice, it would be the first time in a long time that an outsider would head the antigraft court.