SC seeks Sandigan's side on PDAF special courts

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has yet to order the creation of special courts that will try cases in relation to the multi-million-peso diversion of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The High Court wanted to first hear the side of both the anti-graft court or the Sandiganbayan and the accused in the PDAF scam in deciding whether the special courts are needed. 

"Acting on the request of the Ombudsman, the Court today required the Sandiganbayan and all the parties to comment within the non-extendable period of 3 days from notice," SC Spokesman Theodore Te said in a press briefing after the Tuesday, June 10, SC en banc session.

In a letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dated Friday, June 6, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales requested for "at least two special divisions within the Sandiganbayan" to hear and decide on the PDAF scam cases.

Millions of pesos in PDAF – a lump sum allocated to lawmakers and meant for community development pet projects of theirs – was siphoned off to NGOs associated with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. For endorsing the dummy NGOs, lawmakers allegedly received kickbacks.

Shortly before the closing of the Sandiganbayan docket, opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, as well as Napoles, were charged with plunder last Friday, June 6, and with graft on Monday, June 9

Request

Morales said the PDAF scam cases must be tried exclusively by at least two special divisions in the Sandiganbayan given the "national magnitude" and "far-reaching consequences" of the scam.

An SC resolution dated January 21, 2002 in relation to the plunder case against former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada previously created a Sandiganbayan special division to try the plunder case and other cases filed against him and his co-defendants.

Morales said the SC has the power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts.

She added that the internal rules of the Sandiganbayan allows for the creation of special divisions within the court "where compelling reasons and the interest of justice so require." – Rappler.com