Sandiganbayan: Dismissal of graft cases not related to new administration

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The country's anti-graft court

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Sandiganbayan will always base its rulings on evidence.

Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang made the statement amid observations that many high-profile cases were dropped during the second half of 2016 under the Duterte administration.

Tang says the dismissal of cases has nothing to do with the new administration.

"Siguro nagkataon lang na there has been a change in the leadership," Tang told reporters during a chance interview at the anti-graft court.

[Translation: It just so happens that there's a change in leadership.]

She added, "But I do not want to believe na simply because there is a change in leadership eh magbabago narin ang pananaw namin sa ebidensya [that the way we handle evidence would be different]."

Several high-profile cases at the Sandiganbayan were dropped this year.

At the forefront is a graft case filed against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the botched NBN-ZTE deal.

A graft case against Senator Win Gatchalian over the alleged anomalous purchase of a thrift bank was also dropped, as well as a graft case against former Senator Lito Lapid over his alleged involvement in a fertilizer fund scam.

The anti-graft court also dismissed criminal charges against Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian over the 2015 Kentex fire, and a plunder case against former Agriculture secretary Joc-joc Bolante over the P723 million fertilizer fund scam.

Speedy disposition of cases

Meantime, the presiding justice sees quicker disposal of cases next year.

She explains the court has already seen improvements in dealing with delays following the establishment of two additional divisions to the court this year.

"We are conducting an inventory of our cases and we are trying to look into the areas where there has been delay and what has caused the delay," Tang said.

As of November 2016, the court has disposed of 351 cases as opposed to the 276 disposed cases in the same period in 2015.