MANILA – The Sandiganbayan will resume full in-court hearings on March 1 to enable the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) to fully abide by health and safety protocols against Covid-19.
Administrative Order No. 018-2022, signed by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang on February 15, granted a request by the OMB for a “transition period” until February 28.
Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval of the OMB requested for the deferment, pointing out that they are still in the process of procuring antigen kits to be regularly used to test all employees, including prosecutors.
OMB allows only 50 percent of its workforce to physically report for work but in shifts.
The OMB also said some areas in the country are still under strict alert levels so witnesses may have difficulties in travelling to the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City.
Davao de Oro, Davao Occidental, Guimaras, Iloilo City, Iloilo province, South Cotabato, and Zamboanga City are still under Alert Level 3 until February 28.
The anti-graft court earlier ordered full in-court hearings but only parties, their counsels, and witnesses shall be allowed inside the courtroom and video conferencing may be conducted in exceptional cases.
Antigen testing for all lawyers, parties, and witnesses who will appear in court is also required.
For the meantime, the Sandiganbayan continues to conduct videoconference hearings.
The prosecution of cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan are under the direct exclusive control and supervision of the OMB.
Complaints filed before the OMB are against public officers or employees, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations. Such complaints may be the subject of criminal or administrative proceedings, or both. (PNA)