Sandiganbayan chief admits low disposition of cases in 2014 due to ‘pork’ cases

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero listen as Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, question resource persons during the second public hearing on the alleged P10 billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam involving Janet Lim Napoles and certain lawmakers, which were reportedly used in anomalous projects by bogus nongovernment organizations.(MNS photo)

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero listen as Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, question resource persons during the second public hearing on the alleged P10 billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam involving Janet Lim Napoles and certain lawmakers, which were reportedly used in anomalous projects by bogus nongovernment organizations.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang on Thursday admitted that hearing cases related to the pork barrel scam took its toll last year on the disposition of other cases pending before the anti-graft court.

In a chance interview at the sidelines of the opening ceremony for the celebration of the court’s 37th founding anniversary, Tang said they have rendered decision to fewer cases in 2014 as compared to 2013.

Tang said this was due to the various motions and other pleadings connected to the pork barrel scam cases that the Sandiganbayan needed to resolve.

Hindi kami nakapag-focus sa decision-making kasi marami kailangang i-resolve—motion for bill of particulars, motion for determination of probable cause at motion to quash,” Tang said.

She said in 2014, only about 8.2 percent of cases pending with the Sandiganbayan had been resolved as compared to 13 percent of pending cases resolved in 2013.

Pork barrel scam

It was in June last year when the Office of the Ombudsman filed the first batch of pork barrel scam-related cases with the Sandiganbayan. Among the personalities charged with plunder and graft were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, and several other government officials.

The three senators are accused of allocating their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake foundations allegedly owned by Napoles in exchange for millions of pesos worth of kickbacks.

The cases were raffled off and went to the three of the five divisions of the Sandiganbayan.

Until now, the Fifth and Third Divisions of the Sandiganbayan have yet to resolve the respective motion to post bail of Estrada and Napoles.

The First Division, meanwhile, had denied December last year Revilla’s petition to post bail. But the court is not set to start the trial proper anytime soon due to many issues regarding the presentation of documentary evidence and witnesses that the prosecution and the defense teams need to agree on.

The First Division has set the pre-trial of Revilla’s cases on Sept. 13.

Meanwhile, the bail petition of Enrile, which the 91-year-old senator has elevated to the Supreme Court in September last year, remains pending.

Rebound

Tang remained optimistic that the anti-graft court can bounce back this year in terms of disposition of cases, noting that the number of cases resolved from January to April of this year has slightly increased as compared to the same period last year.

Tang said this was despite the fact that all the five divisions of the Sandiganbayan are now handling pork scam-related cases.

In February this year, the second batch of pork barrel scam-related cases was filed by the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan against five former members of the House of Representatives.

Tang had earlier said that she is optimistic that the disposition of cases pending with them will further improve when two additional divisions become operational tentatively before the year ends.

Just last month, the Sandiganbayan had formally requested from the Supreme Court the additional budget of P166.843 million in order to set up two additional divisions.

The setting up of two additional divisions is in accordance with a bill recently signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III aiming to strengthen the anti-graft court. The law will bring the total number of Sandibayan divisions from five to seven.

Meanwhile, during the opening ceremony of the Sandiganbayan’s founding anniversary, Tang announced that all their employees are set to receive P22,000 each as

anniversary bonus and one month salary performance bonus. (MNS)

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