Aquino classmate is new Supreme Court justice

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa is the new justice of the Supreme Court.

This was announced on Twitter on Friday, January 22, by the Public Information Office of the SC.

Just in: The 174th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Hon. Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa. — SC PIO (Official) (@SCPh_PIO) January 22, 2016

He is replacing Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr, who retired on January 16. 

Caguioa is the 5th appointee of President Benigno Aquino III to the High Court. He joins the other Aquino appointees led  by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Francis Jardeleza.

Chief Justice Sereno added in a statement that, "On behalf of the Members of the Court, I welcome Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa to the Court. I am happy that we are once again a complete Court as there is a lot of work to be done which I expect Justice Caguioa to actively take part in."

Replacing him at the Department of Justice as Acting Justice Secretary is Undersecretary Emmanuel Caparas, according to Malacañang.

A founding partner of the Caguioa & Gatmaytan law firm, Caguioa was appointed Chief Presidential Legal Counsel in January 2013, and then justice secretary in 2015 after the resignation of Leila de Lima, who is running for senator under the administration party.

He got 7 votes from the Judicial and Bar Council which screens nominees to the post. Last January 18, he was among the 5 nominees shortlisted for President Aquino's final decision. 

Caguioa was a classmate of President Aquino from grade school to college (both took Economics) at the Ateneo de Manila University.

During his JBC interview earlier this month, Caguioa defended the President in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy, saying Aquino should not be made liable for the program and that he cannot be criminally charged in court for what has been called “presidential pork barrel.”

Caguioa's appointment comes as the High Court is holding oral arguments on the cases questioning the citizenship of Senator Grace Poe, who is running for president. The administration's presidential bet is Manuel Roxas II.

Even if he's a new appointee, he can vote on the Grace Poe case. (READ: SC justices raise doubts on Poe's residency)

Caguioa is a son of former Court of Appeals justice Eduardo Caguioa. –