MANILA (Updated) -- President Benigno Aquino III has no choice but to choose the new justice of the Sandiganbayan from the shortlist submitted to him by the screening body Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

The new magistrate is expected to complete the three-member Fifth Division, which is hearing the plunder and graft cases against Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of the personalities implicated in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.

In a letter to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. on Thursday, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said they did not see anything in the Constitution that authorizes the JBC to revisit its list of preferred candidates for a judicial position "even under changed circumstances."

"We also see no process for confirmation by the JBC of any of list of recommendees, if the list has been transmitted officially through the appropriate channels," said Sereno, who heads the multi-sectoral body.

Because of this, the JBC sent back its shortlist to Aquino, who failed to meet the 90-day deadline of the Constitution to pick the replacement of Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang who was promoted to Presiding Justice in October 1 last year.

The list was submitted to Malacañang on February 28 and an appointment should have been made not later than May 28.

The Palace, however, returned the list to the JBC since it wanted to have a more thorough vetting process after receiving negative information about a certain nominee.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte refused to disclose further details in a briefing with Palace reporters on Friday.

She assured though that the President will soon select the new Sandiganbayan justice in light of the looming trial of pork barrel scam cases.

Gunning for the final seat in the Sandiganbayan are Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Maryann Corpus-Manalac, Quezon City RTC Judge Bernelito Fernandez, Antipolo RTC Judge Ronaldo Martin, Makati RTC Judge Andres Soriano, Department of Justice Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III, DOJ Undersecretary Leah Armamento, Manila RTC Judge Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta and Assistant Solicitor General Marissa Macaraig Guillen. (Sunnex)