With two high-profile tasks, Guevarra assures DOJ has enough lawyers
This undated photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra at a Senate committee hearing.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo

With two high-profile tasks, Guevarra assures DOJ has enough lawyers

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - November 5, 2020 - 5:39pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice is currently handling two high-profile investigations for the Duterte government, but Secretary Menardo Guevarra assured that they have enough personnel to attend to the additional tasks assigned to his office.

Late October, President Rodrigo Duterte tapped Guevarra to head a high-level task force to investigate the entire government of corruption. At that time, the DOJ secretary had a little over a month to release the government’s report on the review of police’s drug war operations that resulted in deaths—a statement Guevarra made before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

These two tasks are on top of Guevarra’s other duties as the head of the DOJ.

But Guevarra assured that there is no lack of manpower even with these additional tasks entrusted to him and his department.

“We have enough state counsels and state prosecutors to handle all these extra tasks assigned to the DOJ,” he told reporters in a message on Thursday. Guevarra added that they will soon welcome young lawyers as prosecution attorneys in the department.

“If need be, we’ll draw from the legal complement of agencies attached to the DOJ, other than the [National Bureau of Investigation],” he added.

Members of the task force against corruption met on Wednesday and identify the functions of the secretariat that would be receiving complaints and information on persons or agencies suspected of corruption.

DOJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar explained that the operations center will have a case evaluation committee that will screen all information and complaints.

She added: “The evaluation committee makes a recommendation of where the reports get to be referred to but the referral is approved and signed by the chairperson,” who is Guevarra.

The DOJ chief, meanwhile, said the evaluation committee would also recommend that a certain report or complaint “deserves the immediate constitution of a special composite team to commence an in-depth investigation.”

Other channels of the secretariat may still be created but Aglipay-Villar said those with tips can send them to the DOJ action center through dojac@doj.gov.ph.

Drug war review panel

Guevarra also said they can release a partial or initial report by the end of November, the timeframe he earlier gave during the UNHRC meeting on June 30.

“As to the review panel looking into police operations resulting in deaths in illegal drug cases, I think we can come up with at least an initial or partial report by the end of the month, as targeted,” he told reporters.

RELATED: Panel reviewing drug war deaths just a 'ruse,' 'damage control' — rights groups

Guevarra explained that the mobility of the panel examining case files in various filed stations was affected by the pandemic and its lockdowns.

“As I see it, though, there may not be a need to look at each and every case, if a pattern is clearly visible upon examination of sufficient random samplings,” he added.

The Philippines’ drug war panel review was noted by the UNHRC when, in October, it adopted a resolution on technical assistance and capacity building to improve the human rights situation in the country.

The resolution stopped short of launching an independent, on-ground investigation, which human rights groups have been calling for.

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