THE Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will start screening applicants, including several Malacañang allies, for the position of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice. The chosen candidate will replace Francisco Villaruz who retires on June 9.
Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldoz and Alex Quiroz have indicated their intentions to be the next chief of the anti-graft court. Associate Presiding Justice Apolinario Bruselas of the Court of Appeals and Judge Arthur Abudiente of the Regional Trial Court, Misamis Oriental, have also filed their applications.
Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang is also in the race. Tang, a known supporter of the Aquino administration, is being touted as the front-runner despite being a junior magistrate.
Other top contenders are Sandiganbayan First Division Chairman Justice Efren dela Cruz and Fourth Division Chairman Justice Gregory Ong.
Ong, whose appointment as associate justice of the Supreme Court was withdrawn in 2007 because of his questionable citizenship, has been declared a natural-born Filipino citizen by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, members of the Executive Department and private firms expressed their desire to occupy the post to be vacated by Villaruz. They are Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento, Provincial Prosecutor Nestor Tolentino of Bangued, Abra, and private lawyer Jasper Lucero.
In 2011, President Benigno Aquino 3rd appointed Villaruz as Presiding Justice of Sandiganbayan, replacing then chief Edilberto Sandoval.