Aquino classmate leads shortlist for SC vacancy

MANILA, Philippines – A former classmate of President Benigno Aquino III leads the shortlist of candidates for the vacant Supreme Court (SC) seat.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) shortlist was released on Monday, January 18, and submitted to the President. It includes 5 names, listed according to the number of votes from the council:

Caguioa, currently Justice Secretary, leads the JBC nominations along with the two Reyeses, with 7 votes each, while Pulido-Tan got 5 votes, and Bruselas, 4. (READ: Fast facts: Shorlisted candidates for Supreme Court vacancy)

The JBC, led by SC Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, cut down the list of possible replacements for retired Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr from a long list of 16.

Villarama vacated his SC seat on January 16.

Caguioa was a former classmate of Aquino in grade school and college at the Ateneo de Manila University. He helped in the presidential campaign in 2010 and then left the private sector to join government as chief presidential legal counsel.

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.”

The JBC is the constitutional body mandated to screen, vet, and recommend to the President nominees to vacant judicial posts.