Aquino signs law expanding Sandiganbayan to 7 divisions

EXPANSION. Sandiganbayan now has 7 divisions instead of 5.

Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – In an attempt to hasten the wheels of justice, there are now two more divisions in the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, expanding the total number to 7.

On Tuesday, April 21, Malacañang announced that President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10660, which strengthens the functional and structural organization of the Sandiganbayan, further amending Presidential Decree No. 1606.

Under RA 10660, signed April 16, the Sandiganbayan will now have 7 divisions, also with 3 members each.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the new law allows a quorum to  be constituted by two members instead of 3.

Malacañang believes RA 10660 “will effectively speed things up in terms of deliberations and hearing of the cases before it.”

The new law provides for an expansion of the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, and prescribes a new procedure for decision by majority vote, Valte said.

“You will see as you go through the amendments, that it will facilitate faster disposition of cases,” she said.

Asked if any one case would be affected in particular such as the ongoing case against the 3 senators accused of plunder and graft along with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in the pork barrel scam, Valte said no specific case will be hastened, but generally, it will lighten the load of the court.

“Effectively doubling the manpower of the Sandiganbayan in terms of justices, will unload some of these cases to the new divisions and, hopefully, will help the existing justices with their work,” she said.

Aquino has long aired his frustrations with the judiciary, describing judiciary reform as "one of the issues closest to my heart" in September 2014. – Rappler.com