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Arroyo appointees to SC, CA take oaths Tuesday

December 3, 2007 4:22pm

The Supreme Court announced that Teresita de Castro, the lead magistrate who handled the plunder trial of pardoned former President Joseph Estrada, will be sworn in as a new associate justice of the high tribunal on Tuesday morning.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court confirmed another appointment, that of Conrado Vasquez Jr as presiding justice of the Court of Appeals. He had assumed the role in an acting capacity.

The high tribunal announced in its website the "oath-taking ceremonies" of "newly appointed Supreme Court justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro and newly appointed Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Conrado M. Vasquez Jr."

They will take their oaths before Chief Justice Reynato Puno at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Dignitaries Lounge of the SC new building in Manila City.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye confirmed a report on QTV Balitanghali on the De Castro's new post. He told Palace reporters that the appointment of De Castro, dated December 1, has been forwarded to the Supreme Court.

The 59-year-old De Castro is the only Sandiganbayan justice who was able to sit through the entire Estrada trial from 2001 until 2007, the QTV report said.

She takes over the seat vacated by retired justice Cancio Garcia.

Estrada was sentenced up to 40 years imprisonment on plunder but was cleared of the lighter charge of perjury.

The antigraft court ordered the seizure of some P745 million worth of Estrada's illegally acquired assets.

However, critics of the Arroyo administration had bemoaned that the Sandiganbayan should still go after billions of pesos that Estrada also allegedly pocketed during his rule.

In an October 16 announcement, the Supreme Court said De Castro was included in the shortlist of nominees for associate justice.

Justices Martin Villarama Jr and Edgardo Cruz of the Court of Appeals; Sandiganbayan Justices Edilberto Sandoval and Francisco Villaruz Jr; and Labor Secretary Arturo Brion, also a former CA justice, joined De Castro in the shortlist by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

Cruz, De Castro and Villarama topped the list with seven votes each, followed by Brion, Sandoval, and Villaruz who all got five votes each.

The shortlist was submitted to Malacañang for the President's final decision.

Puno is the concurrent JBC ex-officio chair, with then acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, and Rep. Matias Defensor Jr as ex-officio members.

Regular members of the JBC members are retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr, Dean Amado Dimayuga, and retired Sandiganbayan Justice Raoul Victorino.

President Arroyo signed Vasquez's appointment papers on November 28.

Vasquez, 67, is the most senior appellate court justice and is the present chairman of its First Division.

He was a former regional trial court judge in Pasay City before his appointment as Court of Appeals associate justice. He is also a former vice mayor of Biñan, Laguna. - with a report from Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV