PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday made her last appointment to the Supreme Court (SC) with the selection of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, completing the 15-man tribunal.

Mendoza, 62, chairman of the CA's 15th Division, filled in the shoes vacated by SC Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, who retired last December 6. He was to take his oath before Chief Justice Reynato Puno Tuesday afternoon.

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With Mendoza's appointment, Arroyo can boast of having appointed all 15 members of the high court, including Puno, who she appointed as chief magistrate in December 6, 2006.

Aside from Mendoza, among Arroyo's appointees in the SC were Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Renato Corona, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Presbiterio Velasco Jr., Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdadio Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, and recently, Jose Perez.

Meanwhile, CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. is also set to retire on January 6. He will be replaced by Associate Justice Portia Alino-Hormachuelos in an acting capacity.

Mendoza, born August 13, 1947, obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Philippines, and Bachelor of Laws at the San Beda College of Laws in 1971.

In 1977, he joined the judiciary as a Senior Research Attorney in the CA in 1977, after which, he engaged in the active practice of law as an associate in the Alampay Alvero & Alampay Law Office in 1980.

He rejoined the judiciary in 1985 when Justice Nestor Alampay was promoted to the SC, then he worked for Justice Abdulwahid Bidin, the first Muslim SC Justice.

In 1989, he was appointed Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 26, Sta. Cruz, Laguna and, after two years, became the station's Executive Judge. In 1994, he was transferred to Quezon City, Branch 219, a heinous crime sala. In 2003, he became the station's Executive Judge.

On July 4, 2003, after almost 15 years as an RTC judge, he took his oath as an Associate Justice of the CA.

At the CA, Mendoza is known for his scathing decision finding sufficient evidence to prove that the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division abducted and continues to have custody of UP students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, as well as farmer Manuel Merino, who have all been missing since June 2006.

That September 2008 ruling reversed an earlier ruling that dismissed the writ of habeas corpus petition filed by the families of the three missing persons. It also ordered the police authorities to pursue its investigation to determine the whereabouts of the victims.

Mendoza promulgated a decision ordering the prosecution of businessman Dante Tan, an alleged crony of former President Estrada, and several others for their involvement in the Best World Resources Corp. insider trading and stocks manipulation scam in 1999.

He also made headlines when he cried foul and charged the US Embassy with discrimination when a woman consul denied his visa application at the height of the controversy over Lance Corporal Daniel Smith's rape case.

He said it was as though the treatment he suffered was a consequence of Smith's detention at the Makati City Jail following his rape conviction. In January 25, 2007, the US Embassy approved his visa after a series of phone calls to his office made by US Acting Consul General Christopher Rowans. (JCV/Sunnex)