WILL justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano be appointed to the Sandiganbayan?
Reports said Justiniano may replace Associate Justice Gregory Ong who was dismissed by the Supreme Court (SC) in September.
Justiniano first gained attention as the former defense lawyer of United States soldier Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in the celebrated rape case of one alias Nicole in Subic nine years ago.
Because of his superb handling of the case, Justiniano managed to tip the balance in favor of his client who was initially sentenced by the lower court to up to 40 years in imprisonment. Justiniano however successfully argued the case before the SC that overturned the conviction of Smith in April 2009.
Justiniano was also among the leading legal minds in the prosecution and impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Sources at the judiciary said if Justiniano will be included in the shortlist of candidates of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), he will be considered by President Benigno Aquino 3rd because of his significant contributions in the cases pushed by the Aquino administration.
Currently, Justiniano is part of the legal team of the Department of Justice helping the Office of the Ombudsman in the prosecution of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. who are facing plunder complaints in connection with the alleged illegal use of their pork barrel of Priority Development Assistance Fund.
The JBC opened the post vacated by Ong on October 24 and the deadline of submission of application will be on November 6, 2014.
Legal observers said the replacement of Ong is crucial to the successful prosecution of pork barrel cases before the anti-graft court because he will sit as a junior member of the 3rd Division that is handling the plunder case of Enrile.