SC approves Sandigan expansion
The Supreme Court has approved the reorganization in the Sandiganbayan and the release of P167 million for the two newly created divisions of the antigraft court, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said on Thursday.
Speaking in a news briefing, Tang said the high court had also green-lighted the creation of 66 new positions in the antigraft court, including the appointment of six additional associate justices.
She said she sent a letter to Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno requesting for budget on May 6, a day after Republic Act No. 10660—the law which paved the way for the additional divisions—took effect.
“I have not received an official copy of the approval [of my request], but I was told that it was already approved,” Tang told reporters.
“Once it is approved, the Chief Justice will then ask the Judicial and Bar Council to open the application for the positions of the new justices. Of course, the selection [of the new justices] will undergo the strict selection process,” she said.
Tang said the funds she had requested would cover the expenses for personal services, maintenance and capital outlay for the additional divisions, which would be constructed on the fifth floor of the six-story Sandiganbayan building in Quezon City.
The presiding justice expressed confidence that the new Sandiganbayan divisions would begin hearing cases before the year ends.
In an earlier interview, she said the two new divisions would help expedite the resolution of pending criminal cases against erring public officials as envisioned by the law.
Tang clarified, however, that the reassignments of pending cases had to be discussed by the soon-to-be 21-member court during their en banc session.
She said the plunder and graft cases in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam would remain in the divisions where they were raffled off.
Tang also said the reorganization of justices would observe the seniority rule in the antigraft court, meaning all the six new justices would be named as junior members of the three-member divisions.
Meanwhile, Tang welcomed the appointment of Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, who will sit as junior member of the Third Division, which Tang chairs.
She said Fernandez, who graduated from the law school of the Ateneo de Manila University in 1990, rose from the ranks as a government lawyer before her appointment as assistant solicitor general in 2006.
For her baptism of fire, Fernandez would temporarily sit as member of the Fifth Division on Monday for the continuation of the hearing on the petition for bail of detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in connection with his P184-million plunder case, Tang said.
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