SANDIGANBAYAN justices have told the Supreme Court (SC) that there is "no compelling reason" to create at least two special divisions to try and decide on cases related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
"After a thorough discussion, the majority of the justices of the Sandiganbayan is of the view that there is no compelling reason and/or imperative need, to create a special division, or divisions, to try the criminal cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman relative to the disbursement and use of the PDAF," the anti-graft court said in a three-page comment dated June 13.
The Sandiganbayan said the PDAF cases should be raffled and assigned to any of the existing divisions to be “fair” to the persons involved in the said cases as well as those who have pending charges not related to the controversy.
Creating special courts could also lead to a “conflict with other equally important cases being handled and tried by justices who will be assigned to the said special division/s because these justices would definitely give priority to the said cases.”
“This would adversely affect the other cases pending before the different divisions of the Sandiganbayan,” the comment read.
At any rate, the Sandiganbayan said it is aware of the “clarion call” to speed up the resolution of the cases, which must be heeded not only for this anomaly but to other cases “filed ahead of them and pending before it.”
Three divisions will try the plunder and graft cases against Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who allegedly received kickbacks from co-accused Janet Napoles for diverting their PDAF to her fake non-government organizations (NGOs).
Associate Justice Gregory Ong, chairperson of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, took no part in the cases as he under investigation by the High Court for his ties to Napoles. He is also a friend of Estrada.
The Sandiganbayan and parties to the cases were ordered by the SC last week to comment on the Ombudsman’s request, which cited “national magnitude, complexities, number of accused and far-reaching consequences” of the cases.
The SC will decide on the request after getting all inputs from concerned parties. (Sunnex)