No escape for law breakers as DOJ introduces E-Inquest
MANILA, Philippines – In light of the public health emergency, strict home quarantine and social distancing imposed by the government, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has allowed the conduct of inquest proceedings online or E-inquest.
An inquest is a summary proceeding where the suspect is being informed of his offense and the evidence against him. A suspect undergoes inquest if he was arrested without a warrant during a buy-bust or entrapment operations or caught while doing a crime or is an escapee.
Currently, the police have arrested 69,000 quarantine violators. The number does not include those arrested for hoarding, price manipulation and those arrested for other crimes.
The arrested suspects have the option of either goes through the inquest proceedings or sign a waiver of detention and proceed with a preliminary investigation.
If a suspect opted for an inquest, the prosecutor determines whether a person should remain detained and charged in court. An inquest is done personally before a prosecutors’ office. The DOJ earlier said prosecutors and staff can only go to the office to attend to urgent matters such as inquest.
However, due to the quarantine and ban on mass transportation and the spike in the number of COVID-infections, such set up is no longer feasible.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the E-Inquest is “just the same procedure” but he said it is done online among internet-capable PNP units, courts, and prosecution offices.
Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said E-Inquest is the “virtual conduct of inquest proceeding using an online platform for video calls and conferences and all available electronic communications.”
He said, the procedure will be paperless and does not require physical presence.
Malcontento explained that the law enforcers will coordinate with the point persons of the docket or receiving sections of the Office of the Prosecutor General before filing the complaint for e-inquest.
From there, the documents will be submitted in a non-editable format through email. The same copies will be forwarded to the lawyer of the suspects. Once the documents have been submitted, the city prosecutor or head will designate an inquest prosecutor.
The inquest prosecutor will proceed according to the rules but it will be done online. Signatures will also be through electronic means.
“After e-inquest, the prosecutor may dismiss the complaint, file information before the court, or order a regular preliminary investigation to be conducted,” DOJ Usec. Markk Perete said.
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