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Despite heavy load, Sandigan posts uptick in decided cases.

The Sandiganbayan has posted a slight uptick in the number of cases it has resolved in 2016 despite grappling with its heaviest workload in two decades.

Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang told reporters that the 11-month total of disposed cases as of November has already exceeded the number resolved for the entire 2015 as the antigraft court added two more divisions.

Tang said the January-November total of 351 cases resolved is 75 (or 27 percent) more than the 276 cases that were decided for the whole of 2015.

Court statistics showed that the Sandiganbayan's performance could not keep up with a deluge of newly filed cases that gave the Sandiganbayan its heaviest load since 1995.

The court received 1,250 new cases from January to November 2016, a 250 percent jump from the 2015 total of 357.

All in all, Sandiganbayan had a case load of 4,515 from January to November 2016, compared to 3,482 in 2015. This has been the highest figure since 1995's load of 5,192 cases.

Subtracting the number of disposed cases leaves a backlog of 4,164 cases as of November 2016, compared to the 3,206 unresolved at the end of 2015.

This marked the third year in a row that the Sandiganbayan's disposal rate failed to hit double digits. The disposal rate was 7.77 percent as of November, 7.93 percent in 2015 and 8.22 percent in 2014.

Before the pork barrel scam cases reached the courts and the accused lawmakers' legal maneuvers slowed down proceedings, the court logged a disposal rate of 14.36 percent.

The disposal rate last broke 20 percent in 2008, when 22.85 percent of the case load was disposed of. In the court's 38-year history, the only time the court resolved more cases than were left pending was in 1995, when it achieved a disposal rate of 51.08 percent.

Records showed that the Fourth Division resolved 86 cases-the highest number of disposed cases so far. The Fifth and Second Divisions were not far behind, disposing of 73 and 71 cases, respectively. The First and Third Divisions each disposed of 52 and 45 cases, respectively. The newly created Sixth and Seventh Divisions disposed of 17 and seven cases each.

While Tang agreed that the creation of the Sixth and Seventh Divisions helped, she said that the successive vacancies left by three justices who retired in 2016 should not affect the court's capacity to deal with the cases.

Second Division Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Napoleon Inoturan, and Fourth Division Justice Jose Hernandez retired on July 22, Aug. 1, and Nov. 22, respectively. President Duterte this month announced the appointment of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 79 Judge Bernelito Fernandez to replace Baldos, while the two other seats remain vacant.

Tang said that other justices have been designated as 'substitute for the meantime so the court or division can function even in the absence of one of the members, sometimes, even in the absence of two members.'

This explains how the so-called Special Second Division was able to issue its recent rulings, such as the dismissal of the plunder case of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante in the P723-million fertilizer fund scam, and the criminal charges against Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian in connection with the Kentex fire tragedy.

Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Michael Frederick Musngi of the newly created divisions served as the Second Division's two other members.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Dec 26, 2016
Words:646
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