Drugs and Crimes
News that informs us that a police officer in the performance of his duty, being convicted for homicide or murder or drug cases being dismissed will never end unless we address this problem. This is precisely because our law enforcers are not complemented with a legal unit or team.
The Philippine National Police may have a Legal Service but its duty is not to assist police officers facing criminal or administrative cases, but in fact, it is tasked to go after its members. The Internal Affairs Service which employs lawyers in the Headquarters are also tasked to hear and review cases filed against police officers.
Our criminal justice system being adversarial makes the police officer a pseudo-lawyer when it initiates the filing of the complaint. The Public Prosecutor only becomes the Counsel of the PNP when the cases reach the Court, after it files the Information. Therefore, during the Inquest and Preliminary Investigation the PNP is on its own.
Other law enforcement agencies, like the PDEA and NBI are better off as they have its own lawyers. It is in 2008 that PDEA hired lawyers to be part of its organization. The problem is that law enforcers who face administrative or criminal cases are on their own. A PNP Officer who arrests a drug peddler may be the subject of a harassment case, when the latter files a case against the police officer before the Office of the Ombudsman, Peoples Law Enforcement Board, Internal Affairs Service and the Commission on Human Rights.
This absence of complementary office that will assist our Police Officers facing retaliatory cases discourages them from valiantly enforcing the law. The PNP, NBI or PDEA should be given a special fund that will provide its members a monetary and personnel assistance in the event that they will be facing cases.
Drugs cases are being lost in Courts and the Prosecutors Office is because we are not outgunned but simply OUT-LAWYERED in the legal arena.
In 2002 when PDEA was created and I volunteered to be its legal consultant, PDEA-7 had a 98 percent, and there months with 100 percent filing percentages, meaning all drug cases are filed in courts. We also had 90 to 95 percent conviction rate. That was from 2002 to 2007. In 2004 when the Mega Shabu Lab was raided, at that time there was no lawyer employed with PDEA in National or Regional Offices, I was designated by then Secretary of Justice, Raul Gonzales as Case Consultant. In 2012, all the foreigner accused were convicted by the Regional Trial Court.
In 2003, when SPO4 Pajantoy was prosecuted for Murder and Homicide for killing on July 15, 2003 an alleged robber and accidentally shooting fellow police officer (PO3 Sarcol), the PNP, Cebu City Government and the IBP Cebu City Chapter refused to help. It means Pajantoy and me were alone in the fight for his innocence. With God’s blessing, Pajantoy (now a Chief Inspector) was acquitted by RTC Judge Ireneo Gako and MCTC Judge Rosabella Tormis.
What is the message then? We must have dedicated or designated lawyers to take charge of the legal defensive and offensive of our law enforcers. We cannot just leave our law enforcers on their own, it is our duty to defend and support them. If I am a member of the Congress, my first law is to create an Office with the PNP and law enforcement agencies a legal office specifically tasked to defend them. A special fund shall also be provided to support them for their transportation, documentation and all incidental expenses in the litigation against them.
About the Author: Clarence Paul V. Oaminal is a lawyer and author of ‘The Textbook on The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002’. He is the Vice-chairman and Undersecretary of the Dangerous Drugs Board and is the current adviser and presiding officer of Cebu City Anti-Drug Abuse Council. He also hosts the local advocacy program ‘Krimen ug Drugas’ in CCTN Channel 47.