MANILA, Philippines - Could Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes be the dark horse candidate for the 15th seat in the Supreme Court?
Sources privy to the selection process said the 62-year-old Reyes has the backing of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who enjoys the trust of President Benigno Aquino III.
Gazmin and Aquino go a long way back, as the former served as Presidential Security Group commander during the time of Aquino's mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, from 1986-1992.
Reyes told Rappler he knew Gazmin since the latter was a colonel; he was still a judge then.
Reyes stressed though that if ever he will be appointed, it will not be because of his closeness with Gazmin. "It will be because of my performance," he said.
Supreme Court Justice Bienvenido "Bogie" Reyes, a friend and appointee of the President, is also backing Andres Reyes, our sources say. Bienvenido Reyes and the President worked together in a security agency during the time of President Corazon Aquino. The two Reyeses were colleagues in the Court of Appeals (they're not related).
Andres Reyes is one of the 7 shortlisted for the post vacated by now Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. (Sereno was appointed chief justice in August). President Aquino has until this week to name Sereno's replacement.
The other nominees include chief government peace panel negotiator Marvic Leonen, said to be a personal preference of the President, CA Justices Rosmari Carandang, Noel Tijam, Jose Reyes,former Energy Secretary Raphael "Popo" Lotilla and La Salle law dean Jose Manuel Diokno.
Reyes previously applied for the post in 2008 but was not appointed.
The President has reportedly interviewed all the nominees except Leonen, who is in Kuala Lumpur for the second phase of the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Non-disclosure of SALNs
At the CA, Reyes presided over the development and implementation of the CA case management information system, under which the status of a case can be tracked from the time of its filing until its resolution.
Also under Reyes, the CA opened a one-stop processing center, where visitors, among others, file a case and access case records.
The one-stop processing center was introduced following the bribery scandal that rocked the appellate court in 2008. Francis Roa de Borja, an alleged emissary of the Manila Electric Company, reportedly offered a P10-million bribe to Justice Jose Sabio Jr. to rule in favor of the company in its case against the Government Service Insurance System.
The controversy showed the lack of policies and rules covering the interaction of litigants and justices.
If appointed, Reyes said he will help develop a similar case monitoring system in the High Court.
However, under his term, the CA pushed for the retention of the non-disclosure policy of the statement of the justices' statement of assets, liabilities and networth.
Reyes comes from a family of justices. His father and namesake served as CA presiding justice, while his grandfather was retired SC Justice Alex Reyes.
His father was known as the judge who handled the electoral case of Joseph Ejercito Estrada, when Estrada was still vying for the mayoral post in San Juan in 1967. Then Rizal regional trial court Judge Reyes declared Estrada the rightful winner in the 1967 mayoral elections; the actor was then running against Braulio Sto Domingo.
Reyes told the Judicial and Bar Council during his public interview on October 25 that he wanted his mother, who's in her late 90s, to see her son appointed to the SC while she still can.
Reyes was a reluctant law student, however, as what was written about him in the article "Born Leader: Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes." He wanted to take up higher studies in economics, which was also his undergraduate degree. But his father asked him to study law instead. Hence, he returned to the Philippines after completing an economics degree in St. Mary's College of California in 1972.
He completed law in Ateneo de Manila University in 1978 and is a member of the Fraternal Order of Utopia, whose other members include dismissed Chief Justice Renato Corona and SC Justices Arturo Brion and Roberto Abad.
Before becoming an Atenean, Reyes studied in La Salle Greenhills where he and Diosdado "Buboy" Macapagal, brother of former president and now incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, were batch mates. Sources said he was also close to Arroyo's husband, lawyer Jose Miguel when he was still the First Gentleman, but Reyes told Rappler he only met him once.
Reyes's nomination to the post is backed by Northern Samar Rep Raul Daza, who wrote a recommendation letter for him. Reyes told us they met in a budget hearing.
What is a political dynasty?
Reyes has no definite stand on the issue of political dynasty, a subject of a case pending now in the High Tribunal. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption had asked the SC to compel Congress to pass a law prohibiting political dynasties.
"How does one define political dynasty?” he asked.
"If two people from the same family could not hold political posts, "does it mean you can't have two justices [from the same family] at the same time?" he told the JBC.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda has said that the petition is "iffy" because a separate, co-equal branch of the government cannot give orders to another co-equal branch. - Rappler.com