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Unanswered questions sidetrack Senate’s approval of DOJ budget

/ 03:04 PM August 17, 2017
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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

The Senate’s approval of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) P17.3-billion budget for 2018 has been deferred after some questions on the agency’s programs were raised during the budget deliberation on Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who was present in the Senate finance committee hearing, said there are still “a number of topics” that they would want to raise before finally approving the 2018 budget of the DOJ.

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Drilon noted the “dismal performance” of the agency led by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II after it was revealed in the hearing that only 37 cases of vigilante killings are being investigated out of almost 12,000 deaths in the government’s anti-drug war.

READ: Aguirre claim that only 1,000 killed by vigilantes questioned

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“I’m disappointed but I think there is a deliberate attempt to be less than transparent, to keep these from the public,” Drilon said in an interview after the hearing.

Drilon said the DOJ’s inaction over the immediate resolution of murder and homicide cases is “part of the culture of impunity.”

Asked to assess the agency’s performance, Drilon said: “Do you call that performance? Of the over 4,000 cases related to drugs, exactly 37 cases being investigated and out of 37, 24 are pending, three have been recommended for prosecution. Dismal.”

In a separate interview, Aguirre reacted to Drilon’s comment, denying that there was an attempt on the DOJ’s part to cover up the magnitude of the drug-related killings.

“I told them that there’s no truth to that. Bakit naman itatago namin (Why should we hide it)? The President is very transparent on this,” Aguirre said.

He also defended the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), saying the NBI is not required to investigate all killings, citing a previous DOJ order limiting the cases the bureau would investigate.

“First of all, the NBI is not obligated to investigate these killings until I issued the Department Order 120 in February 2017. Meaning to say before that date, walang obligation ang NBI (the NBI has no obligation) to investigate these killings,” Aguirre said.

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The senators in the budget deliberation also questioned the performance of the DOJ’s inter-agency committee on extrajudicial killings, which has a proposed budget of around P33 million.

Aguirre said the committee is actively functioning under the leadership of Justice undersecretary Reynante Orceo.

“It’s very active under Usec. Orceo. They are meeting as a matter of fact once a month,” he said.

The secretary also explained that the committee focuses on cases of extrajudicial killings, as defined under Administrative Order 35, defining EJKs as the killing of the members or advocates of cause-oriented organizations like labor, environment or media activists.

“But with respect to the killings on drugs, they are not part of the extrajudicial killings,” said Aguirre. JPV

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TAGS: Department of Justice, Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Senate of the Philippines, Senator Franklin Drilon
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