DOJ assures House it’s working on Bloody Sunday, drug war cases
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) is doing everything it can to complete its investigation of police accountability in the so-called Blood Sunday raids conducted in 2021 against activists in the Calabarzon Region, and the drug war operations conducted during the previous administration of Rodrigo Duterte.
Davao de Oro Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga made the assurance on Wednesday as the sponsor during the plenary debates on the proposed 2023 DOJ budget at the House of Representatives.
Members of the Makabayan bloc had asked Gonzaga about those cases.
Rep. Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Women’s Party inquired first about the status of the investigation of the Blood Sunday raids, which resulted in nine activists beings killed.
“With regards to the bloody Sunday that had happened in Rizal, there are cases filed, as of August 30, 2022. With regards to the case titled NBI-Rosenda Limita vs. Lt. Col. Joseph Tan Nando et al., there are almost 20 respondents, this case has been filed,” Gonzaga said.
“And with regards to victim Emmanuel Asuncion, as of January 13, 2022, there is a continuation of the preliminary investigation. So the respondents are almost 20… So Madam interpellator, Mr. Speaker, the prosecutors under the [DOJ] are doing their job for the prosecution of the respondents. The status of the case is now in the prosecution office for preliminary investigation,” he added.
Gonzaga assured the House that prosecutors would file cases if the complaints would appear to have probable cause.
Rep. France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list appeared to be dissatisfied with the slow pace of the investigation.
She noted that the government seemed to be fast in filing cases against its critics but slow when investigating cases against law enforcers.
“With respect to your statement that in seven hours, warrants of arrests have been served, different to the case of the Bloody Sunday, the provision of our criminal procedure, the law in the prosecution of a respondent or an accused, there are different stages,” Gonzaga said in reply.
“For example, if a crime was committed in flagrante delicto — or was caught in the middle of a crime — it means there is no need for a preliminary investigation. It would go straight to an inquest. Therefore, cases are immediately filed. It means that when the case is filed, it would appear that the proceedings are so quick,” he explained.
“But if no one was caught in the commission of the crime, and then there are witnesses who would come out, it means that inquest proceedings would not be used. We will use preliminary investigation,” he went on.
Moving on to the drug war probe, Gonzaga said the DOH had been pursuing cases against police officers accused of murdering drug suspects.
“As to the vantage point of the Department of Justice, the agency has been filing cases, has been conducting investigations, and in fact pursuing the cases as reported by the PNP. Therefore the [DOJ] and all agencies in the Republic of the Philippines are performing their functions for the prosecution of the respondents,” he said.
The DOJ had raised this point before to argue that the International Criminal Court need not continue its investigation of the drug war killings in connection with the crimes against humanity filed against then-President Rodrigo Duterte and some of his officials.
The proposed 2023 DOJ budget was just one of the issues that the House took up Wednesday, the second day of the plenary debates on the 2023 National Expenditures Program.
The House aims to maintain its schedule to pass the 2023 General Appropriations Bill by Sept. 30, before Congress goes on recess. It would give the Senate more time to review the proposed budget.
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