The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Monday shortlisted five names for the Sandiganbayan associate justice position left by Justice Gregory Ong, who was dismissed after being linked to alleged pork barrel scam architect Janet Lim-Napoles.
Voting by the council showed Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano gaining 5 votes from the 7-man JBC.
Justiniano is believed to be one of the strongest contenders because of his alleged connections in and closeness to Malacañang.
He was perceived to have received the Department of Justice (DOJ) post as a gift after acting as prosecutor in the impeachment trial of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Justiniano was also the defense lawyer for US Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith in the 2005 Subic rape case.
Currently, he is part of the prosecution team handling plunder cases against three senators implicated in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam in the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
Seen as another strong contender is Assistant Solicitor General Sarah Jane Fernandez who notched 6 votes.
Her sister is the current mayor of Dagupan City, Belen Fernandez.
Topping the shortlist with perfect seven votes is Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Philip Aguinaldo.
Aguinaldo was a former prosecutor and program director of the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program.
Also in the top spot with seven votes is Makati RTC Judge Mary Ann Corpus-Mañalac.