PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte may soon make his first appointment to the judiciary after the Judicial and Bar Council completed its list of nominees from 36 applicants for the position to be vacated by Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Teresita Diaz-Baldos.
Sandiganbayan officials said Baldos is set to reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on July 22 after serving the anti-graft court for 13. She was appointed Oct. 30, 2003 by former President Gloria Macapagal -Arroyo.
Baldos heads the Sandiganbayan Second Division which handles cases involving the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
The Second Division also handles the civil forfeiture cases against the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, the criminal cases against Cebu lawmaker Gwendolyn Garcia, and the pork barrel scam cases of former lawmakers Rodolfo Plaza, Arrel Olaño, and Arthur Pingoy.
Under the law, the President should choose from the JBC’s list of nominees within 90 days from the submission by the shortlist.
It will be the first time Duterte will be making an appointment to the judiciary, but two more vacancies are expected within the year.
On November 22, Associate Justice Jose Hernandez, chairperson of the court’s Fourth Division, will also reach the mandatory retirement age but he will be preceded by Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan who has asked to be retired on August 1 due to health reasons although he will not turn 70 until 2018.
Three more Sandiganbayan justices are scheduled to retire within Duterte’s term: Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada who turns 70 next year, Associate Justice Samuel Martires in 2019 and Associate Justice Maria Christina Cornejo in 2020.
After the retirement of Baldos and Inoturan, the 21-man Sandiganbayan will consist mostly of appointees of former President Benigno Aquino III, who appointed 11 magistrates of the superior court.
Aquino’s first appointment was Associate Justice Rafael Lagos in 2010
Oscar C. Herrera, Jr. in 2011, Ma. Theresa C. Gomez-Estoesta in 2014, Sarah Jane T. Fernandez in 2015 and six magistrates in 2016.
Aquino’s six last appointments were Michael Frederick Musngi, Reynaldo Cruz, Geraldine Faith Econg, Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, Karl Miranda and Zaldy V. Trespeses.
But the Integrated Bar of the Philippines questioned the appointments of Musngi, a former Malacañang official, and Econg, former Cebu Regional Trial Court judge, purportedly because Aquino did not follow the rules for such appointments.