THE Sandiganbayan yesterday warned government officials that the days of corruption cases “sleeping” for years and years in the court docket are gone.
The yearend report released by the Sandiganbayan Records Office showed the court started 2020 with 3,981 pending cases, down 24 percent compared to 5,237 unresolved cases the year before – the lowest in four years.
For the entire 2019, the anti-graft court’s seven divisions disposed of 1,114 cases.
The Sandiganbayan has been consistently hitting case disposal north of the 1,000 mark in the past three years with 1,264 in 2017 and 1,075 in 2018 despite the passage in 2015 of Republic Act No. 10660 which created additional two divisions to speed up disposition of corruption cases against ranking public officials.
Between 1995 to 2015, the previous five divisions averaged only 53 cases resolved for each month.
Since adding two divisions in January 2016, the case disposal rate has jumped close to 80 cases per month.
For 2019 alone, that number climbed several notches to just under 93 cases resolved per month.
But the lower case load is not just attributable to the Sandiganbayan’s speed in conducting trial and rendering decisions. The low number of cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman also played a part. For the whole of 2019, the Ombudsman only filed 198 cases – a 73-percent decline from 739 cases filed in 2018.
It was the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division that stood out as 2019’s topnotcher in disposing the most number of cases with 236, followed closely by the Second Division at 233.
The Fifth Division took is at no. 3 with 176 cases resolved, and the Third Division at no. 4 with 141 cases.
The last three places were occupied by the Sixth Division (no. 5) with 120 cases, First Division (no. 6) with 106 cases, and Seventh Division (no. 7) with 102 cases.
There were 228 public officials and private defendants convicted in 2019 against 224 acquittals and 110 who cases were dismissed.
Out of the 228 convictions, 55 pleaded guilty to lesser offenses after securing plea bargain agreements with government prosecutors.