Filing and disposition of cases before the Sandiganbayan reached an all-time low in 2020 with only 117 new cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman and 340 disposed of by the anti-graft court.
These numbers were disclosed in the “Statistics on Cases Filed, Pending, and Disposed of as of Dec. 31, 2020” released by the Sandiganbayan recently.
This was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic which impacted people’s work capabilities as lockdowns kept people at home in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Ombudsman prosecutors have been refrained during the quarantine to physically appear before the Sandiganbayan from April to June and as a result, zero cases were filed.
The anti-graft court had to make certain adjustments to keep judges, staff, prosecutors, and the defense team safe.
Physical distancing measures were established and the court used modern technology to conduct hearings.
But during the height of the hard lockdowns, hearings were completely suspended.
“That is a big factor because during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), hearings were suspended, thereby delaying the proceedings,” said Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
“Had the hearings in the cases, particularly the reception of defense’s evidence, proceeded normally, most of those cases could have been submitted for decision.”
Tang said they are now continuing their hearings but given the fact that COVID-19 continues to be a threat, the speed in which cases are resolved will remain slower than usual.
“The court has actually resumed hearing cases and will vigorously do so, but not in the number pre-pandemic,” she added.
Statistics also revealed that number of cases filed have been slowly dwindling over the years.
The Ombudsman filed 1,311 cases in 2016, 2,513 in 2017, 739 in 2018, 198 in 2019, and 117 in 2020.
On the other hand, the Sandiganbayan disposed of 371 cases in 2016, 1,264 in 2017, 1,075 in 2018, 1,114 in 2019, and 340 in 2020.
From January to December last year, there were 31 malversation and 21 graft charges filed. There were 28 appealed cases and 37 filed under “others.”
Last December, 31 cases were disposed of – 11 malversation cases, three graft cases, one appealed case, and 16 filed under “others.”