Roxas’ deputy makes it to Sandigan shortlist

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5 make it to the shortlist, including 3 Sandiganbayan justices

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The deputy of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has made it to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) shortlist for Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rafael Antonio Santos, Court of Appeals Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr, and Sandiganbayan justices Efren de la Cruz, Gregory Ong, and Amparo Cabotaje-Tang are on the shortlist of the JBC that will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III. 

Santos was also Roxas’ undersecretary at the Department of Transportation and Communications. 

The top post of the Sandiganbayan became vacant when Presiding Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr retired on June 8, when he turned 70.

The JBC already interviewed 9 candidates for the post on May 20 and 21 after the 10th candidate, law practitioner Jasper M. Lucero was disqualified after failing to submit necessary documents before the interview.

Among the Sandiganbayan insiders interviewed aside from Cruz, Ong and Tang were Associate Justices Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos and Alex L. Quiroz.

The “outsiders” who were interviewed, or the ones who do not belong to the judiciary, include Santos, Justice Undersecretary Leah C. Tanodra-Armamento and Abra provincial prosecutor Nestor S. Tolentino. 

Santos’ bid to head the anti-graft court has been criticized by the opposition.

UNA’s criticism

But Roxas said Santos has a clean record in government. “Sinusuportahan ko naman siya sa haba ng aming pagsasama sa DOTC at DILG ay wala kang masasabi, walang matsa, walang bahid ang kanyang pagserbisyo,” Roxas earlier said. (I support him since we have worked together in DOTC and DILG and I cannot say anything [bad against him], he has no bad record.)

Roxas said Santos had asked him before applying for the post. He added he cannot stop Santos from pursuing his dream of returning to law practice.

Roxas added, “Sabi niya pagod na rin siya at maaring mag–apply. Sabi ko okay naman mag-aaply bagamat maayos naman ang trabaho mo dito,” Roxas said. (He said he’s already tired and he could apply. I said it’s okay to apply although he has been good in his work here.)

READ: Roxas defends ally’s bid to head Sandiganbayan

Santos was formerly with the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco law firm, more known as The Firm. One of the founders of The Firm is Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. Another founder, former defense secretary Avelino Cruz Jr, was a legal counsel of Roxas in his 2010 vice presidential bid.

Santos was defense undersecretary during Cruz’ term at the defense department.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco earlier said he has “nothing personal” against Santos but that “his political association may put the integrity of the Sandiganbayan on the line.”

“Will he be an anti-graft advocate or still be an ever helpful friend passive to the demands of his former partners?” Tiangco asked. – 

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