Press Release
February 25, 2015

Senate ratifies Bicam report on amendments to Sandiganbayan Law

The Senate today ratified a bicameral conference committee report on the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law geared towards the speedy disposition of corruption cases against erring government officials and employees.

The Senate ratified the consolidated version of the bill, which resolved the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 2138 and House Bill No. 5283.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, author and co-sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2138, earlier said the amendments will address the structural and institutional limitations encountered by the Sandiganbayan, "which is supposed to be the frontrunner in the fight against corruption."

The measure allows sessions be held upon the attendance of two members of a division constituting the majority of the members instead of all three as presently required. It also allows the addition of two new Sandiganbayan divisions to the present five, totalling seven divisions.

The measure also modifies the voting requirement for the promulgation of judgment, decision or final order, and the resolution of interlocutory and incidental motions. The measure lowers the number of votes required from three to two in order to render a decision.

Drilon noted that the Sandiganbayan Law or Presidential Decree No. 1606 last underwent legislative scrutiny almost 20 years ago. "The result is that a case in the Sandiganbayan now takes about an average of five to eight years to litigate and resolve."

"Despite the numerous advancements that have been incorporated in our judicial system through the years, justice continues to be as elusive as it has been during the infancy of our republic. As our judicial structure becomes more ingenious, so does graft and other malfeasance," Drilon said.

"If we are to outrun graft and corruption, it is imperative that we resuscitate and recondition our existing prosecutorial and adjudicatory institutions against this opponent," the Senate leader added.

Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights and sponsor of the bill, earlier said that the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law will strengthen the country's anti-graft court's structure.

"The capacity of this court to decide cases efficiently and promptly has been stretched beyond its limits," Pimentel added.

Drilon said that once the bill is enacted into law, the jurisdiction of "minor" cases will be transferred to the Regional Trial Courts (RTC), which will enable the Sandiganbayan to "concentrate its resources on resolving the most significant cases filed against public officials."

He noted that during the last quarter of 2013, about 60 percent of the total cases in the Sandiganbayan are considered "minor" or allegations of damages or bribes not exceeding P1,000,000.

To guard against being an ex-post facto legislation, the bill expressly provides that the amendments to the Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction and voting requirement for promulgation of judgement shall only apply to cases arising from offenses committed after the effectivity of such measure.

"The battle against corruption has never been this intense and we will be blamed by our people if their Congress does not adequately and aggressively equip our anti-graft institutions with the proper tools to defeat and arrest the abuses in the government," Pimentel said.

"Ultimately, the most potent deterrent against the spread of corruption is the certainty of punishment and expeditiousness of the proceedings, and we can only arrive at such a scenario by boosting the structural capability of our anti-graft mechanisms," Drilon added.

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