MANILA — The Sandiganbayan on Monday opposed the request of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for the Supreme Court to create a special division to handle all the cases filed in connection with the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In a three-page comment submitted by the Sandiganbayan to the SC on Monday, the Sandiganbayan said that they see no need for the creation of a special division.
“After a thorough discussion, the majority of the justices of the Sandiganbayan is of the view that there is no compelling reason, and/or imperative need, to create a special division, or divisions, to try the criminal cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman relative to the disbursement and use of the PDAF,” the pleading said.
The comment is signed by the justices of the Sandiganbayan led by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
“The creation of a special division or divisions in the Sandiganbayan, which would exclusively try the PDAF cases, could lead to a conflict with the other equally important cases being handled and tried by the justices who will be assigned to the said special division/divisions because these justices would definitely give priority to the said cases,” the Sandiganbayan said in its comment.
However, the Sandiganbayan said that they are aware of the need to speed up the resolution of the PDAF cases.
“Thus Court undertakes to respond to such a call not only with respect to the said cases but also as to the other cases filed ahead of them and pending before it,” it added.
In its request, the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) said that the need to create a special division was due to the “national magnitude of these cases, the complexities of the issues involved, the number of accused and the far-reaching consequences of these cases.”
Ombudsman Morales, a retired SC justice, cited Section 5, Article 8 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that the SC has the power to “promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts.”
Morales said that Section 3, Rule III, Part I of the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan also provides for the creation of a special division “where compelling reasons and the interest of justice so require.”
However, the SC opted to hear the sides of all the parties involved before acting on the Ombudsman’s request.
The parties include the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the Ombudsman, which will handle the cases, and the camps of the accused.
The last time a special division of the Sandiganbayan was created was in January 2002 when former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada was indicted for plunder.
Then San Juan City mayor and now Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada was also an accused in that plunder case involving proceeds from the illegal numbers game jueteng.