MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Two administration allies focus on the Sandiganbayan, filing bills to address what they call an “intolerable delay” in the resolution of graft cases.
Senators Franklin Drilon and Teofisto “TG” Guingona III filed two separate measures that aim to fast-track the “snail-pace disposition of cases in the country’s anti-graft court.”
Drilon and Guingona are members of President Benigno Aquino III’s Liberal Party (LP).
In a statement on Thursday, July 11, Guingona explained that his bill will increase the number of Sandiganbayan associate justices, and will create 15 divisions with 3 justices each. The Sandiganbayan now has 5 divisions of 3 justices each.
Under Guingona’s bill, 7 divisions will be stationed in Metro Manila, 4 in Visayas, and 4 in Mindanao.
The senator cited a study that the Supreme Court and the World Bank sponsored, showing that each division handles about 1,000 cases every year. The study found that each case takes an average of 7 years to be resolved.
“Efficiency is one of the pillars of good governance …. If we do not transform how our institutions are managed, all efforts for transparency and accountability will just go to waste. We need to strengthen the capacity of our institutions,” Guingona said.
The Sandiganbayan is a specialized court created to deal with corruption cases against government officials and employees.
Drilon wants updated Sandiganbayan law
Guingona’s bill also amends the rule requiring all 3 justices in a division to hear and receive evidence, a change that Drilon is pushing for in his own bill.
The former justice secretary’s measure amends the Sandiganbayan Law to authorize individual Sandiganbayan justices to hear and receive evidence on behalf of the division to which he or she belongs.
“The existing provision became inapplicable to the present times since the government has expanded and cases filed before them have multiplied over the years, and that provision only contributes to the increasing number of unresolved cases,” Drilon said in a statement on Wednesday, July 10.
The senator said the litigation of cases at the Sandiganbayan usually takes 5 to 8 years before promulgation.
“This delay is intolerable if the war against corruption is to be won,” said Drilon, a staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino III and touted to be the next Senate President.
“The Sandiganbayan has been overwhelmed with the humongous files of unheard and unresolved cases. It is imperative that we address the increasing backlog of cases in that court created to effectively and swiftly deal with corruption cases involving government workers,” he added.
Drilon filed the bill last July 4 for the 16th Congress.
Designating a justice-in-charge
The bill states that every case filed with the Sandiganbayan shall be raffled to a justice-in-charge, who will monitor and report the developments in the case to the members of the division.
The justice-in-charge will hear and receive evidence for the division to which he or she belongs, and “resolve every incident that arises in the course of the proceeding in that case.”
After the case is submitted for decision, the justice-in-charge will submit a report to the division to help them resolve the case.
If the 3 members of the division cannot reach a unanimous decision, the presiding justice will designate by raffle two special members to create a division of 5 justices. The majority vote will prevail.
Drilon said the division can appoint a justice to write the decision on behalf of all members to speed up the process.
The senator’s amendments to the Sandiganbayan law comes after it was twice amended in 1995 and 1997.
Drilon was justice secretary from 1990 to 1991 and 1992 to 1995 under the Cory Aquino and Ramos administrations. He was also executive secretary and labor secretary during the presidency of Cory Aquino.
A former Senate President, he is a stalwart of the ruling Liberal Party (LP). – Rappler.com