THE Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) received eight nominations for the position of presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan.

The top position at the anti-graft court remained vacant since the demise of Presiding Justice Norberto Geraldez last April 4 due to pancreatic cancer complications.

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Associate Justice Gregory Ong, the controversial magistrate of the anti-graft court, whose appointment to the Supreme Court in May 2007 was recalled by Malacanang, led the nominees for vacant post.

Malacanang made the decision after the SC issued a ruling on July 3, 2007 enjoining him from accepting his designation as associate justice until he has sufficiently proven that he is a natural-born Filipino citizen.

In September 2009, the Court of Appeals affirmed Ong's Filipino citizenship.

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will appoint the next Sandiganbayan chief, who will play a crucial role since the court has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving public officials, including former Presidents.

Aside from Ong, other nominees were acting Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval, who was automatically appointed in an acting capacity being the most senior.

Sandoval submitted his application after his failed attempt to be appointed to the high court upon the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Other nominees for the position of Presiding Justice were Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Efren dela Cruz and Francisco Villaruz; SC deputy court administrators Nimfa Vilches and Edwin Villasor; Regional Trial Court Judges Renato Francisco (Malolos) and Pedro Corales (Pasay).

Corales holds the distinction of having decided a case in the shortest time possible in the country. It involves the case of Georges Brion, a Belgian national who was robbed by drug addicts, inside his room in Pasay City.

It turned out that Brion was a member of the Belgian Parliamentary with a rank equivalent of a congressman, and who was in the country to attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union General Assembly in April 2007.

As soon as the case was filed and raffled to him, Corales issued a decision convicting the suspects the next day.

Francisco, on the other hand, is a known environmental judge.

The JBC received the applications and nominations of the candidates from May 7 to May 17. It has yet to schedule the public interview of the candidates.

The JBC is the constitutional body that screens candidates to vacant posts in the judiciary. After screening, the JBC transmits to the President a list of nominees where the latter may choose his appointee. (JCV/Sunnex)