By JOENALD MEDINA RAYOS
BRIGHT minds do not rest until its last breath. Thus, experts in government service remain in service even after their retirement from their previous assignments.
This is true with Batangueo legal luminaries. Just last Monday, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has appointed retired Sandiganbayan presiding justice Edilberto Sandoval as the top prosecutor if the Office of the Ombudsman, succeeding Wendell Barreras-Sulit who retired last March 11.
Sandoval, 76, joined retired Supreme Court (SC) associate justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, a fellow Batangueño from Alitagtag, Batangas in the roster of legal luminaries serving the government even after their retirements. Prior to them, the late SC associate justice Cecilia Munoz Palma whose roots hails from Bauan, Batangas also served the government even after her stint at the judiciary, being the most renowned member of the Constitutional Commission which drafted the 1986 Constitution.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has transmitted Malacañang’s appointment of Sandoval to the Supreme Court (SC) and the Office of the Ombudsman.
As a special prosecutor, he is empowered to conduct preliminary investigation and prosecute criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and enter into a plea bargaining agreement. His term will last for seven years as the Ombudsman Act of 1989 provides.
Sandoval’s appointment was made possible after the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) recommended him from the shortlisted applicants to various positions in the judiciary including the offices of the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman.
The JBC is the sole body mandated by the constitution to screen the applicants and recommend the same to the president for appointment. It is headed by the Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno with ex-officio members – the Secretary of the Department of Justice, Vitaliano Aguierre II; the representatives from lower and upper house of the Congress, Sen. Richard Gordon and Congressman Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, among others.
Other regular members of the JBC include retired SC Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez representing the retired justices association, lawyers Jose Mejia representing the academe and Milagros Fernan-Cayosa representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), respectively; retired judge Toribio Ilao representing the private sector.
Gutierrez, a fellow Batangueño is the head of the executive committee of the JBC.
Sandoval traced his roots from Mabini, Batangas started his career in the judiciary when he was appointed by then President Ferdinand Marcos as presiding judge of the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Mindoro in 1983. Three years later, late president Corazon C. Aquino named as presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court in Manila in 1986, a position he held for 10 years, until then President Fidel V. Ramos appointed him to the Sandiganbayan in 1996. Former president Benigno S. Aquino appointed him as Sandiganbayan presiding justice in 2010. As chairman of the second division, Sandoval had been in and out as presiding justice for seven years each time vacancy occurred by reason of retirement or death.
He was the only non-SC justice shortlisted by the JBC for Chief Justice position in May 2010.
A known criminal law expert, book author and educator, Sandoval was once a member of the Corps of Professors and the Head of the Criminal Law Department of the Philippine Judicial Academy, a post he has held since 2000.
He was appointed twice by the Supreme Court as Bar Examiner in Criminal Law in the 1993 and 2009 Bar Examinations, and in Legal and Judicial Ethics in the 1998 Bar Examinations.|