CLOSING REMARKS OF PRESIDING JUSTICE AMPARO M. CABOTAJE-TANG ON THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN ON JUNE 11, 2018
My dear Colleagues, distinguished guests, fellow public servants in the Sandiganbayan, magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.
Last Friday, we concluded another exciting week of our traditional sportsfest. The competition was fierce and the various events highlighted the abilities, skills, and passions of our exceptionally talented people. At the end of the day, however, we are all part of one Court and the success of the individual teams is a triumph to be shared by all.
Today, we commemorate our 40th year anniversary. While our institution is quite young compared to other government agencies, it is actually the oldest Anti-Graft Court in the world.1 Our forty-year existence has been of tremendous impact to the nation. It is no surprise that we are always the subject of media, due to the crucial role we play in governance.
As you all know, last year we posted our highest disposition rate in twenty-two (22) years with a record One Thousand Two Hundred Sixty Four (1,264) disposed cases.
It is thus fitting and proper that this year's 40th-anniversary theme is: "Cheers to Success in Public Service." What factors contributed to our success? The addition of two (2) new courts was definitely a welcome development. While this was counterbalanced by the fact that we were hit by the successive retirements (and promotions) of several justices, we managed to work around that by a systematic designation of the incumbent justices as substitutes so that the affected divisions - and the Court itself, for that matter - could function even in the absence of one member of the said divisions. In addition, following the Supreme Court's lead, we instituted more stringent measures to ensure the speedier disposition of cases. Among others, these were: the observance of the Judicial Affidavit Rule, the strict prohibition against postponements, and the implementation of the Revised Guidelines on Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases. But most of all, let me credit each and every one of you for devotedly pouring out all your energies towards making the last three (3) years among the best ever in the history of our Court. Surely, they have contributed substantially towards bettering our reported yearly average of 140-150 resolved cases.2 They have also led, in the overall, to the Court's disposing of 34,207 cases out of a total of 36,514 filings from 1979 to the present.
As we stand at the portal of our 40th year, we do so on the right footing and on high gear. Let us continue to take inspiration then, from all the good things going for us: our record performance, our consistent positive net sincerity rating,3 and the fact that "the Sandiganbayan's reputation for integrity and independence is generally good."4 Already, we are seeing the fruits of this inspiration taking shape: as things stand, we appear on tract towards beating even our disposal rate for 2017. In recent years, we have also managed to trim down our case durations from 10 years to a little over 5 years, counted from the filing up to the promulgation of judgment. With the strict observance of the rules on continuous trial, I am confident that we can surpass ourselves, by eventually hitting the one-year case duration mark. While this may indeed be the Holy Grail of any collegial and trial court like us, I believe that this is doable especially with the simple cases if we all pour our hearts into it.
Indeed, there is prestige in being the oldest anti-graft court in the world. But we can only be true to that prestige if we accept it both as our glory and our burden. Life, they say, begins at 40. Let us use our momentum to invigorate us into becoming even better versions of ourselves, so that we may achieve our vision of becoming "a judicial institution that the Filipino people can [truly] rely on to uphold the highest norms of official conduct towards a graft-free country." For that is what the Sandiganbayan should truly be - a solid pillar of justice that everyone can turn to and lean on. With God's help, and with our unceasing passion for and unqualified dedication to our work, I am confident that we can make this vision come to pass - and endure - for our country and our people.
Let me end by thanking Justice Meann Mañalac for organizing this most wonderful celebration. Let us all give a warm round of applause to Justice Meann and the entire Anniversary Committee.
Let us also thank Justice Bernelito Fernandez for organizing the Sandiganbayan Chorale in its debut performance, also in commemoration of this special day.
Maraming Salamat. Mabuhay ang Sandiganbayan! Mabuhay tayong Lahat!
1 Specialised anti-corruption courts: Philippines, Matthew C. Stephenson, Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Brief 2016:3) 4 p at http://www.u4.no/publications/specialised-anti-corruption-courts-philippines/ last accessed on June 7, 2018.
3As Reported by the SWS.
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