Sandiganbayan justices attend US Embassy talks on financial crimes
MANILA, Philippines – At least 21 Sandiganbayan justices have attended a roundtable discussion on various aspects of financial crimes, according to the United States (US) Embassy in Manila.
According to the US Embassy on Monday, the talks were organized by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (DOJ/OPDAT), the Philippine Supreme Court (SC), and the Philippine Judicial Academy.
“The event aimed to enhance participants’ capabilities, competencies and skills in examining and adjudicating money laundering and financial crimes, deepen understanding on how to freeze assets, recover laundered property, and ensure proper preservation and management of assets,” the embassy’s information office said in a statement.
One of the speakers was Judge Bernice Donald of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, who talked about new forms of money laundering, especially those dealing with recent technology of bitcoins and cryptocurrencies.
“Judge Bernice Donald […] shared her expertise on traditional and emerging methods of money laundering, discussing the role that bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies and the dark web can play in money laundering, as well as other money laundering methods, including using money cards and gift cards, and through online networks,” the embassy added.
“The knowledge-sharing program was designed to inform justices on relevant laws and decisions, sharpen justices’ ability to analyze accounts and follow the money trail, review emerging methods of money laundering and the role of electronic evidence, and best practices for applying court technology in adjudicating cases,” it noted.
The Sandiganbayan was created through the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, mainly as an appellate court tasked to hear criminal and civil cases involving graft and corruption against public officials, government employees, and certain private individuals.
The anti-graft court has heard and decided on several high-profile financial cases recently, including civil cases against the Marcoses for allegedly amassing ill-gotten wealth, and plunder cases against senators involved in the pork barrel scam.
Of all the pork barrel cases, only one, however, has been decided — that of Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla. Revilla was acquitted while his aide Richard Cambe and scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles were convicted.
First Division Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg said they are thankful for the organizers as it would help them in handling the cases.
“The Sandiganbayan justices truly appreciate the [DOJ/OPDAT] for organizing the roundtable,” Econg said.
“The topics, especially the rules on electronic evidence, were a valuable revisit of the laws and rules and made [the justices] realize that there is still room for more improvement in the delivery of justice,” she added.
The US Embassy meanwhile said it would continue on supporting the country’s judicial system through various training programs.
“As a friend, partner, and ally, the United States will continue to support the development of the Philippines justice system through judicial training of judges on cybercrime and financial crimes to help ensure that all Filipinos are served by a swift, fair and modernized court system,” the embassy stressed. /je
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