MANILA — The House Committees on Appropriations and on Justice, has a approved a proposed bill seeking to strengthen the functional and structural organization of the Sandiganbayan to enhance the public accountability weapon of the government against graft and corruption.
The substitute bill approved by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab, chair of the Committee on Appropriations and Rep. Niel C. Tupas of the Committee on Justice provides for the following: increase in the number of Sandiganbayan Divisions from five to seven; transfer of the so-called minor cases to the Regional Trial Courts so the Sandiganbayan can focus on more significant and more complicated cases against public officials and render judgement swiftly but judiciously; and modifies the voting requirement for promulgation of judgement.
The said bill substituted four other proposals namely, House Bill 139 authored by Rep. Francis Gerald A. Abaya (1st district, Cavite); HB 3827 by Rep. Romero S. Quimbo (2nd district, Marikina City); HB 3992 by Reps. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district, Cagayan De Oro City) and his younger brother Maximo B. Rodriguez (Party-list, Abante Mindanao); and HB 4108 by Tupas.
Tupas said that as currently structured, the Sandiganbayan completes the proceedings of a case, from filing of information to the promulgation of judgement, in about seven years. Such process undermines the objective of the Sandiganbayan, which was created to reinforce the century old maxim :Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The Sandiganbayan plays a critical role in fighting graft and corruption, and any delay in the resolution negatively impacts its ability to deter commission of similar acts of corruption, according to Abaya.
Abaya added that the sheer volume of cases being handled by the Sandiganbayan makes it impossible to dispose cases.
As of December 31, 2006, the number of cases pending in the Sandiganbayan stood at 2,514. Presently, the Sandiganbayan has only five divisions and most of the time hold only two hearings for a case every two months.
”The bill is an ameliorative approach in declogging the dockets of the Sandiganbayan with the least cost to the government,” said Quimbo.
The substitute bill also seeks the amendment of Section 4 of PD 1606, as amended, so that the Sandiganbayan shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving: Violations of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act, and Republic Act No. 1379, and Chapter II, Section 2, Title VII of the Revised Penal Code; other offenses whether simple or complex with other crimes committed by the concerned public officials and employees in relation to their office; Civil and criminal cases filed pursuant to and in connection to Executive Order Nos. 1, 2, 14 and 14-A, issued in 1986.
The bill also provides for the amendment of Section 5 of PD 1606, so that when there are two or more cases ready for trial on a particular day, the Chairperson of a division shall designate a member to hear and receive evidence and resolve all incidents arising therefrom for that day. All three members of a division shall deliberate on a case submitted for judgement or final order. The concurrence of two Justices in a division shall be necessary to render judgment or final order.