Pols, polls & the ties that bind:

‘Candidates’ to Comelec chairs

FILIPINOS CHOOSE the people who will run their government through elections. Yet they do not hold the power to choose who will run the elections. That authority rests on the President, who appoints the chairperson and six commissioners of the Commission on Elections. For the appointment to be binding, however, a confirmation from the Commission on Appointments is needed.

With the retirement of Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr. on February 2, the executive and legislative departments should now be selecting individuals fit for the chairmanship post. The next Comelec head will also be President Benigno S. Aquino III’s second Comelec chair appointee, who will be partly responsible for the preparations for the 2016 presidential elections.

As early as last September, the names of Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura had floated as potential replacements for Brillantes. Three other names emerged recently: former Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad, Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II’s election lawyer Joe Nathan P. Tenefrancia, and Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus B. Rodriguez.

In a recent program on the local cable news channel ANC, Brillantes himself mentioned Winston M. Ginez of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and National Police Commission (Napolcom) Executive Officer and Vice Chairman Eduardo U. Escueta as the other possible candidates for the post.

Apart from Brillantes, two other commissioners, Lucenito N. Tagle and Elias R. Yusoph, also retired on February 2, leaving two more vacancies in Comelec to be filled up.

Each commissioner, including the chairperson, serves a total of seven years without reappointment. The law further requires that each commissioner be a natural-born Filipino who is at least 35 years old at the time of appointment. The chairperson and majority of the six commissioners must be “members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years.” In addition, they must not have participated in the immediately preceding election – a stipulation that should automatically eliminate Rodriguez from the list, since he ran (and won) in the 2013 polls. Rodriguez, however, is said to be actively lobbying to be named Comelec chief.

In a nutshell, to ensure elections run fairly, efficiently, and transparently, without violence or fraud, the Comelec chairperson and commissioners must have proven credentials in election law and have no political bias or potential conflicts of interest. To help assess if the mentioned names pass such standards, here are some background information on them:

Roberto A. Abad

It has been barely a year since former Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad retired from government service.

In 2012, Abad was among those nominated to be head of the high tribunal following the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. Abad’s position back then was that Aquino should appoint a sitting Supreme Court magistrate as the new chief justice so the judiciary could “forgive” the President and the House of Representatives for Corona’s impeachment. He clarified, though, that he meant that both sides should forgive each other.

Abad further admitted before the members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that he regarded Corona as “a personal friend” and took part in the weekly masses held by Supreme Court employees during the impeachment trial.

Having chaired the Supreme Court Committee on Internal Rules, as well as on Jail Decongestion, Abad said that among his priorities if appointed chief justice would be to address the problem of overcrowded jails.

Abad is known as the ponente, or the justice writing the court’s rulings, of the high tribunal’s decisions on the contentious Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, where majority of the justices voted in favor of keeping libel as a criminal offense. He also penned the 2010 SC decision on the Vizconde murder case where Hubert Webb, son of former senator and ex-basketball star Freddie Webb, was acquitted along with seven other defendants because of the prosecution’s failure to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Abad made headlines as well in 2012, when he supported Comelec’s decision to purchase from Smartmatic-TIM precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 polls. News reports quoted Abad as saying that the government entering into a lease contract with an option to purchase is a common practice. The Supreme Court later junked the petition questioning the contract’s legality.

While Abad’s statements may have supported Comelec’s purchase of PCOS machines, he wrote the high tribunal’s decision that found the commission committing grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Rommel Apolinario Jalosjos, who had settled in Zamboanga Sibugay after spending 26 years in Australia, from running in the May 2010 polls as a gubernatorial candidate.

The 71-year-old Abad obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Manuel L. Quezon University in 1966 and law from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1968, where he was an honor student.

Abad passed the bar in 1968 and began his law practice at the Jose W. Diokno law office as associate lawyer for one year. In 1969, he entered government service as technical assistant and later associate attorney in the office of Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro. He moved to the Office of the Solicitor General in 1975. By 1985, he had become Assistant Solicitor General. He held the post for one year under the supervision of then Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza, who later became head of the defense panel for former President Joseph E. Estrada in his impeachment and plunder cases in 2001. Abad found himself opposite his former boss when he served as counsel for the Equitable Banking Corp. and its officers and branch managers, who testified against Estrada during his impeachment trial.

Abad left government service and began his 23 years of private practice in 1986. He put up The Law Firm of Roberto A. Abad & Associates, and served as its senior partner until his appointment to the Supreme Court in August 2009.

Abad also taught at the University of Sto. Tomas-Faculty of Civil Law for 33 years and became its dean from 2008 to 2009. He authored “Practical Book in Legal Writing” (Special Student Edition) in 2002 and “Fundamentals of Legal Writing” in 2004.

He has rendered free legal aid for the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the Department of Social Welfare and Development, a church-based group, and a non-profit organization.

Eduardo U. Escueta

Napolcom’s vice chairman and executive officer since 2008, Eduardo U. Escueta has worked closely with at least three secretaries of the Interior and Local Government, namely Ronaldo ‘Ronnie’ V. Puno under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the late Jessie M. Robredo and incumbent Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II under President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Ronnie Puno, a former congressman, is better known as the political architect and campaign manager or adviser of three presidents: Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Arroyo. But Escueta’s ties to politics and politicians go a long way back.

Escueta came to public light first as a partner of the ACCRA Law or the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices whose prominent founders include two senators: Juan Ponce Enrile and Edgardo J. Angara. In the ’90s, Escueta co-founded his own law firms – the Escueta Tan Acut & Madrid Law Offices, and later, the Escueta Yasay Law & Partners that is also known as the Escueta Regalado Atienza Mendoza and Bernabe Law Office.

It was as an ACCRA lawyer that Escueta became one of the respondents in the civil cases that the Presidential Commission on Good Government filed to assert the government’s claim over the coco levy funds. Named respondents in the cases were “the ACCRA lawyers” – former senator Edgardo J. Angara, Enrile, Jose C. Concepcion, Avelino V. Cruz, Teodoro D. Regala, Rogelio A. Vinluan and Eduardo U. Escueta – who incorporated, represented, and served as dummies of the principal respondents: strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, his widow and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, Marcos crony Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr., Danilo Ursua, and 71 corporations.

Nine Supreme Court justices, including then Chief Justice Corona, voted with finality on the cases on April 12, 2011 in favor of Cojuangco and the registered owners of the shares. Three associate justices – Conchita Carpio Morales, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, and Arturo D. Brion – cast dissenting votes. Four others — Antonio T. Carpio, Eduardo Nachura, Diosdado Peralta, and Teresita de Castro — abstained because they had either served as co-petitioner (Carpio) or solicitor general (Nachura), or simply did not take part in the vote.

But years after the cases were filed, Escueta resumed working with and for the coconut industry. From July 1998 to 2000, Escueta was Administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), which had run into a number of controversies.

The “Small Coconut Farms Development Project (SCFDP),” a 10-year project funded with a US$121.8-million loan from the World Bank. Of the total, US$80.92 million was allocated for the procurement of farm inputs and assigned to PCA, and $40.88 million to the Department of Agriculture, for the purchase of equipment and vehicles, consultants’ services, training, studies and extension, and research. A project evaluation report would later say that “the government procured a total of 11.1 million bags of fertilizers that cost P2.3 billion,” but distributed these for free to farmer beneficiaries in far-flung areas throughout the country.

The PCA thus had to spend millions for hauling and delivery services. For the first six years, it paid private forwarders P600 million; in the years coinciding with Escueta’s watch, it hired five separate contractors in three different years and paid more than P309 million. The deliveries came one to three years after the fertilizers had been purchased, and were thus no longer useful to the beneficiaries.

In its agency audit report on PCA in 2000, the Commission on Audit found that “a total of 530,522.42 bags of damaged and undelivered fertilizers that entail more than P130 million was spent for nothing.”

The report added, “COA estimated that at least 40 percent of funds intended for fertilizer deliveries have been malversed.” The project ended in 2000 but PCA had continually failed to respond to COA’s recommendations.

It cited another report which Sergio T. Eulogio, then PCA consultant and deputy administrator for corporate services branch, had submitted to Escueta, that said P275.730 million of PCA funds “had been used by former PCA officials to finance private concerns, including the drive of the Ramos administration to change the Charter (Cha-cha).”

Eulogio’s report alleged that retired Gen. Virgilio David – Excueta’s predecessor in PCA who was also appointed by President Fidel V. Ramos – supposedly “manipulated and converted” training programs for farmers “into convenient venues or political rallies to create a critical mass of the population… (to) create a coalition of coconut farmers and non-coconut farmers for the PIRMA campaign to amend the Constitution.”

As executive officer of Napolcom since 2008, however, Escueta has launched a number of administrative reforms, including:

• In December 2014, Napolcom said “criminals on the loose and spurious and fake warrants of arrest may soon be things of the past” with the launch of the Philippine National Police’s Clearance Systems through e-projects (e-blotters, e-warrants and e-rogues), and the formation of the Crime Research and Analysis Center (CRAC).
• In July 2014, “to boost the morale” of Philippine National Police (PNP) members, Napolcom approved the rank promotion of police officers to fill up 47,185 promotional vacancies for Senior Police Officer 1 (SPO1) to Police Superintendent under the Second-Level Regular Promotion Program. Escueta said that the PNP has been authorized to fill 975 promotional slots for superintendent; 1,035 for chief inspector; 1,273 for senior inspector; 1,904 for inspector; 11,219 for SPO4; 11,360 for SPO3; 14,484 for SPO2; and 4,935 for SPO1. There are no vacancies for PO2 and PO3 ranks. Over a dozen other police officers have also been promoted since 2013 to star rank.
• The conduct of periodic PNP entrance tests to hire 10,000 new policemen, according to the budget approved for the PNP. In October 2013, entrance exams conducted in major cities drew 33,014 examinees but only 8,345 or 25.28 percent passed. This month, too, Napolcom reported that only 9.7 percent or 2,052 out of 21,154 examinees passed the PNP promotional exams it conducted last November.

But one number that continues to rise is something Escueta could not curb yet: Every year about 20,000 policemen are named in complaints for various offenses, or over one in every 10. Last year, 72 policemen were charged with violation of human rights. Escueta said the figure is not alarming at all considering that the PNP has about 150,000 total personnel.

Yet while police matters clutter Escueta’s desk, coconuts have a special place in his heart. Despite his duties at Napolcom, he remains enrolled as the “corporate secretary” and one of three directors for Luzon of COCOFED, or the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation, Inc. (formerly the United Coconut Planters Association).

Meanwhile, in the Escueta Yasay Law & Partners’ web profile, Escueta lists his practice to be focused on “Civil Law, Criminal and Administrative Litigation, Public Advocacy, Special Projects, Corporation Law, and Election Law.”

The president of Class ’72 of the UP College of Law, ex-president of the UP Alumni Association, and a Batch ’68 member of the Sigma Rho Fraternity, Escueta’s brush with elections were few and far between. On at least two occasions, it did not even turn out to be good.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and Ang Pahayagang Malaya newspaper soon exposed the participation of PCA in the Charter change campaign launched starting 1997 by PIRMA or the People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization, and Action. A project linked to then outgoing President Ramos, PIRMA advocates said they had gathered over six million signatures of voters as a people’s initiative project to pursue charter change.

On Aug. 27, 1999, Malaya ran a story titled “PCA funding of PIRMA confirmed,” citing disclosures by PCA sources. On Jan. 11, 2000 Santiago called for a Senate investigation into reports that Escueta’s predecessor in PCA, Virgilio David, had used millions of pesos of PCA funds and property to help bankroll PIRMA and launch a smear campaign against Ramos’s critics, using part of the World Bank loan to purchase fertilizers.

A second misencounter with elections came just recently for Escueta and his COCOFED family. On May 22, 2012, COCOFED filed a “manifestation of intent” to run for party-list seats in Congress in the May 2013 elections. The manifestation listed Escueta as COCOFED corporate secretary, even as he was then serving as Napolcom vice chairman and executive officer.
Comelec disqualified COCOFED and 11 other party-list groups for failure to comply with accreditation requirements. The Supreme Court threw out COCOFED’s appeal in August 2013.

Winston M. Ginez

When he was designated chairman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on April 30, 2014, Winston M. Ginez found himself defending his appointment, which critics said was a reward for his participation in the 2012 impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona.

But then he was not the only private prosecutor at that trial who ended up with a government post. Also appointed like Ginez were private prosecutors Al Parreño (who also came from LTFRB) and Arthur Lim, both of whom are now Comelec commissioners. A third, Jose F. Justiniano, has been named Justice undersecretary. Former House prosecution panel manager Joseph Emilio Abaya, meanwhile, is now Transportation and Communications secretary.

Ginez replaced Jaime Jacob, who had resigned as LTFRB chairman in March 2014 after two years of service.

Under Ginez’s leadership, the LTFRB has conducted regular inspection of buses to reduce the number of colorum units and make sure that bus companies comply with the policies. The bureau has since suspended many bus lines.

Ginez graduated valedictorian in his accounting and law classes at the San Beda College, and placed third in the 1995 bar exams. He was a law professor at San Beda from 1997 to 2005. From 2006 to 2007, he served as acting president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasay.

Ginez had a short stint as auditor at Punongbayan & Araullo before he studied law. He then worked as a litigation, corporate, and tax lawyer at ACCRA Law. In 1999, he became vice president for legal and corporate affairs at the Pacific Ace Management Corp. In 2003, he founded the Quial Ginez Paras & Beltran law office (now Quial Beltran & Yu law office) together with three other lawyers.

Ginez was also once the chief of staff of Government Service Insurance System trustee Jesse H.T. Andres.

Leila de Lima

This would be the second time Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima has been eyed to head the commission where her father was once a commissioner. In 2011, de Lima’s name had also been floated as possible successor to then outgoing Comelec Chairman Jose Armando R. Melo.

In October 2014, de Lima topped a survey of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) for possible replacements for Brillantes. She obtained nearly two-thirds of the vote, followed by incumbent Comelec Commissioner Luie Tito Guia and former Supreme Court Justice Nachura.

De Lima was a distinguished election lawyer before Arroyo appointed her as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in May 2008. In 2007, de Lima became part of the Supreme Court’s sub-committee on election rules alongside fellow election lawyers Brillantes, Romulo Macalintal, and Pete Cadra. These election lawyers, including de Lima, had earlier called the attention of the Supreme Court to alleged anomalies in trial courts with regard to handling of poll cases. The sub-committee proposed new rules of procedure in election contests before the courts involving elected municipal and barangay officials.

When Aquino took office in 2010, he selected de Lima to lead the Justice Department. De Lima became infamous for defying the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order that allowed Arroyo to travel abroad in 2011. Because of this, three disbarment complaints were filed against de Lima in 2012, which in turn jeopardized her nomination for the post of Supreme Court chief justice that had been vacated by impeached Corona.

De Lima was born in Iriga City to Vicente B. de Lima and Norma E. Magistrado. She studied at La Consolacion College from elementary to high school. She majored in history and political science in De La Salle University. She took up law at the San Beda College, where she graduated class salutatorian in 1985.

De Lima began her law practice working as a legal staff in the Office of Supreme Court Justice Isagani A. Cruz for three years. She moved to private practice in 1989, working at different law firms until 1998, including the law offices founded by former Solicitor General and now Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis H. Jardaleza and former Senator Raul S. Roco.
In July 1998, she and a colleague established De Lima & Meñez law office, where she was managing partner until March 2007.

Martin T. Meñez was de Lima’s head executive assistant and became director in 2013 of the DOJ’s Witness Protection, Security, and Benefit Program (Witness Protection Program).

In January 2014, The Manila Times reported that de Lima, an ex-officio member of the Judicial and Bar Council, had lobbied for Meñez’s inclusion as a candidate for associate justice of the Court of Appeals. The Internal Rules of the JBC, which screens applicants for positions in the judiciary, automatically disqualifies candidates “with pending criminal or regular administrative cases, and criminal cases in foreign courts or tribunal, or who had been convicted in any criminal or administrative case where the penalty imposed is at least a fine of more than P10,000, unless he/she has been granted judicial clemency.”

Meñez, The Times said, “is a respondent in the case docketed under IS XVI-INV-IBF-00200, titled Jorge G. Cruz vs. Rufo Colayco, Martin T. Meñez, et al.” involving the alleged falsification of land titles. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes A. Sereno, JBC chair, reportedly ignored the pending case against Meñez who was even shortlisted by the JBC, “to make de Lima happy.”

From 1993 to 1995, de Lima was secretary of Electoral Tribunal of the House of Representatives. She has also handled classes on election law, business organizations, persons and family relations, statutory construction, and introduction to law, among others, at the San Beda College of Law.

Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura has had an extensive experience in government service, having worked in all the three branches of the government under three presidents.

In the Executive branch, 74-year-old Nachura had served as commissioner of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (1993-1994) and undersecretary for legal affairs and legislative liaison of the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports (1994-1998). He was chief presidential legal counsel (February-March 2006) and solicitor general (2006-2007) under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In February 2007, Arroyo sent him to the Supreme Court but he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 on June 13, 2011.

Nachura was a two-term representative of the second district of Western Samar. He won twice in the 1998 and 2001 elections but had also lost twice in the race for the same position in 1992 and 2004. He first ran under the Lakas-NUCD party of former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992 and then switched to Liberal Party in the subsequent elections.

Nachura was elected chair of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education in his first term in Congress, and the Committee on Constitutional Amendments in his second term. He was a member of the House Prosecution Panel during the impeachment trial of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001. In 2010, he swore Arroyo into office as Pampanga’s second district representative.

As Arroyo’s legal counsel in 2006, Nachura penned Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which placed the country under a state of national emergency. As Solicitor General later, he handled the legal battle against two of Arroyo’s highly disputed directives – the “calibrated preemptive response” policy on street demonstrations and Executive Order No. 464, which prohibited government and military officials from testifying in congressional inquiries without clearance from Arroyo. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that parts of these measures were unconstitutional.

Interestingly, one of Nachura’s notable cases before the Supreme Court had him arguing against Comelec. The petitioner Sigaw ng Bayan questioned Comelec’s dismissal of its petition for amendment of the 1987 Constitution through a people’s initiative. The Supreme Court denied the petition.

Nachura was also the DepEd undersecretary who accredited anew the CKL Enterprises owned by supplier Jesusa ‘Susie’ de la Cruz. The accreditation allowed CKL to grab a questionable P81.7-million contract to supply 185,086 units of plastic armchairs to public high schools.

Nachura was born in Catbalogan, Samar, where he studied in public schools from elementary to college. He obtained his A.B English degree from Samar College (1963) and law, from the San Beda College (1967), where he graduated first honorable mention. He placed seventh in the bar exams in the same year. He earned his doctorate in public administration from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

From 1977 to 1983, Nachura was assistant corporate secretary of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and soon became its vice president and corporate secretary until 1985. He also worked for a year as president and general manager of the Grains Insurance Agency Corporation. In 1986, he established the Robles Brillantes Nachura Ricafrente & Aguirre Law Firm together with former Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr. among others.

Nachura was dean of the Arellano Law School from 1992 to 1994.

Joe Nathan P. Tenefrancia

Joe Nathan P. Tenefrancia was a private prosecutor during the impeachment trial at the Senate against then President Estrada in 2001, and helped in his subsequent trial for plunder and perjury before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court that lasted until 2007.

Tenefrancia was one of the lawyers of the Carpio Villaraza & Cruz or CVC Law – but more popularly known as “The Firm” – who assisted the prosecution in Estrada’s impeachment trial. The Firm had among its prominent clients Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Arroyo, husband of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who had served as Estrada’s Vice President beginning 1998. In her campaign for the vice presidency, Arroyo listed in her1998 summary of election contributions “Joe Nathan P. Tenefrancia” and “Avelino J. Cruz Jr.” as donors, respectively, of P200,000 and P5 million.

Estrada stepped down from power and Arroyo was installed President in January 2001. She promptly designated Antonio T. Carpio, one of CVC Law’s founders, as chief presidential legal counsel. Avelino J. Cruz Jr., another CVC law founder, was named his deputy. Carpio’s post soon passed on to Cruz who would also later serve as Arroyo’s executive secretary until August 2004, and defense secretary until he quit in 2005. In October 2001, Carpio became Arroyo’s first appointee to the Supreme Court.

(The Firm – which had called itself “The Lawyers to Presidents” – had also been mobilized by the Ramos administration where Carpio served as presidential legal counsel.)

The Firm’s third founder, F. Arthur ‘Pancho’ Villaraza, stayed on as its managing partner, even as two other partners, Simeon V. Marcelo and Inocencio P. Ferrer Jr., served Arroyo’s government as Solicitor General and Finance undersecretary, respectively. Marcelo would later be appointed Ombudsman by Arroyo.

Tenefrancia, meanwhile, was appointed assistant secretary for legal affairs of the Presidential Management Staff in February 2001. He was chief presidential legal counsel from January 2004 to August 2004, and later senior deputy executive secretary for legal affairs of the Office of the Executive Secretary from September 2004 to December 2005.

Cruz, Marcelo, and Tenefrancia eventually went back to The Firm. In 2010, Tenefrancia served as counsel of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II when he ran for vice president. He was also the deputy national director of the group Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota that was formed to watch the votes of Roxas and now President Benigno S. Aquino III. Tenefrancia is the counsel on record in Roxas’s election protest case against Vice President Jejomar C. Binay.

Currently, Tenefrancia is the managing partner at Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia, one of two factions that emerged after The Firm broke up in 2013. (The other group is Villaraza & Angangco.) Among those who joined the Cruz group was Mike Arroyo’s former spokesperson, Patricia Bunye.

Tenefrancia has degrees in mining engineering and law from the University of the Philippines. He graduated salutatorian of Class1991 of UP Law and received the Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence.

Tenefrancia served as public relations officer of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (1999) and later director of the organization’s Makati City chapter (2000). He is also a member of the IBP National Committee on Legal Aid.

Rufus B. Rodriguez

Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus B. Rodriguez is serving his third and last term in Congress until 2016.

A lawyer and educator, Rodriguez has had experience in executive, legislative, and local elective offices. He began his political career at the age of 27 when he was elected board member of Misamis Oriental in 1980. He served as the province’s vice governor from 1984 to 1986. He came back from hiatus in 2007, when he ran and won as representative of Cagayan de Oro City’s second district. He was re-elected to the same post in 2010 and 2013.

Rodriguez was affiliated with Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) party in 2007 and 2010. In 2013, he joined and led the newly formed Centrist Democratic Party, which supported the candidacies of Senators Francis Joseph ‘Chiz’ G. Escudero and Aquilino Martin ‘Kiko’ L. Pimentel III, as well as Liberal Party member and now Senator Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ A. Aquino.

Rodriguez was designated commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration in 1998 and served until Estrada was ousted in January 2001. He then served as chief of staff of Senator Luisa ‘Loi’ P. Estrada for three months.

Arroyo named Rodriguez as the country’s Ambassador to Germany, but the Commission on Appointments did not confirm his posting. He later withdrew from the post.

Rodriguez is an A.B. Economics graduate from De La Salle University but finished law at the University of the Philippines. He placed 17th in the 1981 bar exams. He has an M.A. in Economics from Xavier University and a Master of Laws from Columbia Law School. In 2011, he was conferred an honorary doctorate in humanities (civil law) by the Central Mindanao University and received a Certificate in Summer Courses on Public International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law in The Netherlands.

Rodriguez began teaching law in 1986. He became dean of the San Sebastian College of Law four years later. He set up the Sebastinian Office of Legal Aid in 1992. – PCIJ, February 2015