Senate OKs bill speeding up trial of graft cases
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate on Wednesday ratified the final version of a bill that would speed up the trial of graft cases against government officials in the Sandiganbayan.
With the approval of the bicameral conference committee report, the measure can now be sent to President Benigno Aquino III for his signature.
In a statement, bill author Senate President Franklin Drilon noted that most cases in the Sandiganbayan take an average of five to eight years to litigate and resolve.
The bill, which addresses the structural and institutional limitations of the antigraft court, would boost the anticorruption drive, Drilon said.
Under the measure, two more Sandiganbayan divisions will be added to the present five, bringing the total to seven.
The bill also allows sessions to be held even if only two of the three members of a division are present. Under current rules, all three members must be available.
Instead of requiring a unanimous vote, the concurrence of two of the three justices would be enough to hand down judgments, decisions or final orders and the resolution of motions.
The bill further seeks to limit the cases that fall under the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction, with cases involving damages or bribes not exceeding P1 million falling under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts instead of the antigraft court.
In the latter part of 2013, about 60 percent of cases filed before the Sandiganbayan concerned amounts worth P1 million and below, Drilon said, adding that the amendment now allows the antigraft court to focus on resolving cases that involve bigger amounts of public funds.
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