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PNoy signs law strengthening Sandiganbayan


MANILA, Philippines- President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed into law Republic Act 10660, which increases the number of divisions of the Sandiganbayan from five to seven.
President Aquino approved last April 16 the act strengthening the functional and structural organization of the Sandiganbayan, further amending Presidential Decree No. 1606 on the creation of the special anti-graft court.
Speaking during a press briefing at Malacañang on Tuesday, Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the new law increases the number of divisions of the anti-graft court to seven, as well as provides funding for the new divisions which shall be included in the annual national budget.
Valte said the number of justices to constitute a quorum has also been changed.
“Under the same provision, previously PD 1606 stated that three justices shall constitute a quorum for session in each division. Now, a quorum shall be constituted by two members. So, this will effectively speed things up in terms of deliberations and hearing of the cases before it,” Valte explained.
“In the old law, it says that quorum of three — each division has three members. So, if there is one absent, they cannot do business and they cannot hear the cases that are pending before them. Of course, you cannot avoid absences in certain cases. This new amendment will allow two sitting justices to still conduct the court’s business in the absence of the third member. That will make things faster as well,” she added.
When asked if the new law would have a direct impact on high-profile cases pending at the Sandiganbayan, such as the pork barrel scam and the plunder case against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Valte said “not in specifics but in generalities”. “If the existing divisions can be unloaded — because remember that the divisions handling the Napoles-related cases also have other cases to contend with. So, effectively, adding more divisions in this case for, effectively doubling the manpower of the Sandiganbayan in terms of justices, will unload some of these cases to the new divisions; and, hopefully, will help the existing justices with their work,” she said.
Valte also noted that Section 5 prescribes a new procedure for decision by majority vote and the proceedings to be conducted by the divisions “that will facilitate faster disposition of cases”.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.