• Congress willing to fund two Sandigan divisions


    The leaders of two house panels which approved the bill that aimed to add two additional divisions to the Sandiganbayan have expressed willingness to provide the funding needed for the said divisions.

    Recently, President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed into law a measure which, among others, adds two divisions to the anti-graft court’s current five.

    “Congress is willing to provide the needed additional budget for the judiciary upon compliance with the proper procedure, rules, law and jurisprudence on budgetary appropriations, subject as well, to the availability of funds as certified by the national treasurer,” said Rep. Isidro Ungab of the 3rd district of Davao City and chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

    Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Justice, also expressed support for the budget of the two additional divisions to the Sandiganbayan.

    “But the details on the budget we have to call DBM for some clarifications,” Tupas told The Manila Times in a text message. DBM is the Department of Budget and Management.

    Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang earlier expressed hope the two divisions will be in place this year.

    “I think we will ask for a supplemental budget so that it can be activated as soon as it is possible,” she said in a press briefing last week.

    The magistrate also said during the same press briefing she does not think the Sandiganbayan’s savings will be enough to fund the establishment of two more divisions.

    But whether or not it can be put in place this year depends on the availability of funds.

    If no funds are available this year for the supplemental budget, Ungab said that the anti-graft court “can include this in the proposed budget for 2016 considering that the DBM has already started preparing the budget for 2016.”

    The new law applies to cases filed after its effectivity.

    Aside from creating two additional divisions, the new law provides the Regional Trial Courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction of charges that do not allege any damage to the government or any bribery, and those that allege damage to the government or bribery but which do not exceed P1 million.

    Tang said that from 2000 to present, 1,638 cases involving P1 million and below were filed before the Sandiganbayan while 872 cases have no allegation of damage to government for a total of 2,570 cases.

    The Sandiganbayan has 3,197 cases as of March 2015.


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