Associate Justice Edgardo Lao Delos Santos was born on June 12, 1952 to fisherman Francisco Diongzon Delos Santos and housewife Basilisa Pajaron Lao in the town of Palompon, Leyte. During his elementary and high school years, Justice Delos Santos was a consistent honor student and class president despite having to overcome financial dire straits by assisting in his father’s fishing expeditions and peddling food items. After finishing his basic education, he initially took up Pre-Med in the University of San Carlos before shifting to AB Political Science. He eventually took up Bachelor of Laws in the same university, graduated in 1977, and passed the Bar Examinations in 1978.
Having risen from the ranks, Justice Delos Santos started his career as Legal Researcher – I in the then Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) under Presiding Judge (later Court of Appeals Associate Justice) Abelardo M. Dayrit. He then transferred to the Supreme Court as Technical Assistant under Associate Justice (later Chief Justice) Felix V. Makasiar before being promoted to Court Confidential Attorney in the same office.
In May of 1983, he was appointed as Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court (single sala) of Siaton, Negros Oriental in 1983 at the age of 30. After the EDSA Revolution, he was re-appointed in February of 1987 as Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities – Branch 1 of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental where he was eventually designated by the Supreme Court as its first Executive Judge.
In October of 1993, he was promoted as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court – Branch 45 in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Apart from his regular assignment in the RTC, he also concurrently handled several other stations located the following cities: Guihulngan City (Branch 64), San Carlos City (Branches 57, 58 and 59), Kabankalan City (Branch 61), Himamaylan City (Branch 55), Sipalay City (Branch 69) and Bacolod City (Branch 46). He even served as the Acting Executive Judge in the RTC of San Carlos City. Moreover, his main sala (Branch 45) was later designated by the Supreme Court as the Special Drugs Court in Bacolod City.
It was during his stint in the RTC that Justice Delos Santos would be known for handling professionally demanding cases wherein he: convicted a foreign national and sentencing him to death for smuggling more than a kilogram of dangerous drugs into the country and convicted another foreign national for engaging in soliciting mail-order Filipina brides. He never shirked from his sworn-duty to uphold the law especially in handling life-threatening cases such as the “Magsungay Massacre” and several high-profile dangerous drugs, illegal gambling, kidnapping and human trafficking cases which involved criminal syndicates and personalities of immense influence. He also distinguished himself by being: First (1st) in Rank – Most Number of Cases Disposed/Decided per Judge (1994 – 1996); Second (2nd) in Rank – Most Number of Cases Disposed/Decided per Judge (1996); and Third (3rd) in Rank – Most Number of Cases Disposed/Decided per Judge (1995).
In May of 2008, he was again promoted as Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals where he was assigned in the Court’s Visayas Station in Cebu City and where he initially served as member of the 18th, 19th and 20th Divisions. Among the notable cases he has handled in the CA includes the closure (via issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan) of Cebu City’s Inayawan Sanitary Landfill which was considered as an environmental “ticking time bomb” by nearby residents.
In December of 2019, Justice Delos Santos—while serving as Executive Justice and 18th Division Chairperson of the Court Appeals Visayas Station—was finally elevated as the 186th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. His lengthy adjudication experience and faithful service to the Judiciary spanning four (4) decades is expected to bring about a pragmatic approach to jurisprudence in order to bridge the gap between the law’s theoretical ideals and the real world’s unforgiving nature.
During his entire stint in the Judiciary, he had been recognized with the following distinctions: 2016 Ulirang Ama Sectoral Award for Law and Judiciary, 2009 Outstanding Palomponganon Award, 2008 Outstanding Law Alumnus of the University of San Carlos, Supreme Court En Banc Congratulatory Resolution(Re: Gender Justice Awards [A.M. No. 04-8-13-SC, August 24, 2004]), Novel Decision Award (Gender Justice Awards), Special Award on Women’s Advocacy (Soroptimists Awards) and Community Relations Award (NARCOM). Moreover, he had also been a nominee of the following awards: 2007 Awards for Judicial Excellence and2006 Awards for Judicial Excellence.
Apart from his judicial duties, Justice Delos Santos also served as law professor in University of St. La Salle – Bacolod City from 1993 to 1999 and in Negros Oriental State University – Dumaguete City from 2008 – 2011 where he taught Remedial Law subjects and Legal Ethics. He is also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of Casa Cittadini Foundation, Inc.—home for neglected girls and a non-profit institution run by the Ursuline Sisters of Somasca.