In last SONA, Duterte pitches to Congress: Pass bill for free legal aid to PNP, AFP facing charges

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
In last SONA, Duterte pitches to Congress: Pass bill for free legal aid to PNP, AFP facing charges
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his last State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa Complex on July 26, 2021.
Screenshot from RTVM stream

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:18 p.m.) — With less than a year left in his term, President Rodrigo Duterte pitched to Congress passing a bill that will provide free legal aid to military and cops charged over actions in line of duty.

In his last State of the Nation Address, Duterte said: “It is high time to pass a law providing free legal assistance to [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and [Philippine National Police] officers enlisted personnel to help them from charges arising from incidents related to the performance of official duty.”

In the same speech, Duterte also asked Congress to pass a law to reform the pension of military and uniformed personnel.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers President Edre Olalia noted that soldiers and military officers, like every person, are entitled to constitutional rights to due process which includes the right to counsel.

The Public Attorney's Office is mandated to provide free legal assistance provide the indigent sector.

But Olalia pointed out that there would be no need for a measure to give them access to free legal aid if they only perform their duties regularly.

“[M]ore fundamentally, such proposed free legal assistance to them will be totally unnecessary if only they perform their jobs properly, regularly and legally, consistent and in accordance with basic rights and freedoms of the people,” he said.

Olalia continued: “In fact, with all these rights violations and abuses, it is the victims of security forces that most need free, competent and independent counsel.”

DOJ-led review

Duterte made the pitch as his own justice chief leads an inter-agency panel review of police’s “drug war” operations that led to deaths.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that in their initial report, the panel had found that police failed protocols in many “drug war” operations.

As the DOJ continues its investigation, it also gained access to at least 53 administrative cases where the PNP Internal Affairs Service found liability on cops in “drug war” operations where killings occurred.

The DOJ also leads the Administrative Order 35 committee that looks into politically motivated killings. Among the cases the AO 35 Special Investigating Team is investigating is the bloody Calabarzon police raids where nine activists were killed.

READ: Human rights under Duterte so far: 'Killings, threats and a terror law'

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court early in July promulgated the Rules on the Use of Body-Worn Cameras amid mounting calls for safeguards on rules they claimed to have been weaponized against dissenters and activities.

Under the rules, law enforcement agents implementing arrest and search warrants will be required to use at least two recording devices for the implementation of these court orders.

Duterte and his men are facing allegations of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court over the bloody “drug war.” — with reports from Xave Gregorio

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 27, 2021 - 10:58am

Follow this thread for updates on the preparations for and the delivery of President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address.

Photo: RTVM screengrab from SONA 2020

July 27, 2021 - 10:58am

President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address was a confirmation that killing is a government policy, rights group Karapatan says.

"Duterte knows the day of reckoning is coming for him with the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor’s request to investigate him for his crimes against the Filipino people. He may brag and pretend not to care, but his quip to 'add another' dead body amid the calls for accountability is an insidious — and serious — threat," the group also says.

July 26, 2021 - 6:35pm

President Duterte says the Delta variant of the COVID-19 is "far more aggressive and dangerous."

Duterte hopes the variant will not spread any further but if something wrong happens, "it will be just like what happened in the early days."

July 26, 2021 - 6:21pm

President Duterte claims his government launched the most extensive amelioration program in history with the passage of Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2.

July 26, 2021 - 6:17pm

President Duterte talks about the pandemic response, joking that he may have the deadly virus that killed 27,000 Filipinos.

Earlier he told everyone to pray to God to solve the pandemic, which has left thousands of Filipinos out of work.

July 26, 2021 - 5:59pm

President Duterte revisits the issue with Metro Manila water providers, now Razon-led Manila Water Company Inc. and Pangilinan-led Maynilad Water Services Inc., which he earlier accused of forging "onerous" contracts with the government.

"I told (Finance Secretary) Dominguez, 'tell them that I am no longer honoring the contract,'" the president recalls telling his finance chief. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

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