DOJ chief to PNP: Stop ‘arrest for accomplishments’

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Stressing that success is not measured by meeting a quota, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla is appealing to the police to stop the practice of arresting people just for the sake of having accomplishments.

Remulla made the remark in his speech during the 70th anniversary of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) at Camp Crame, Quezon City yesterday.

“We should not accost people just so we can claim an accomplishment. Hopefully, the arrests we make really help in curbing crime and criminality in society,” he said in Filipino.

Remulla noted that there are about 200,000 people in the country’s detention system, most of whom were arrested for template crimes such as illegal gambling and illegal drugs.

He cited arrests over petty violations such as gambling with coins on the street or cases when an innocent person is jailed for simply being present during a drug bust “all in the name of accomplishment.”

“I hope that this will not continue in the future,” said Remulla.

For the Department of Justice (DOJ), measuring the success of the government campaign against crime should be based on the number of criminals put behind bars through convictions in court.

To achieve this goal, Remulla said the cases must encompass the quality of evidence gathered to ensure that a criminal is convicted.

He urged police to instead focus on the bigger crime which has more impact on society.

The DOJ chief gave as an example the fight against illegal drugs, where enforcement agencies should focus on big-time drug traffickers.

“When we monitor illegal activity, let’s begin with the big fish and not waste effort on small fry in the streets,” Remulla, speaking in Filipino, said.

He clarified that he does not mean lawmen should no longer apprehend criminals on the streets, but stressed the focus should be on the syndicates that bring more problems to society.

The justice secretary also appealed to the police to ensure that suspects in cases of incestuous rape are held accountable.

He revealed that about half of the people under the care of the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program are victims of incestuous rape; and decried how very few are put in jail because mothers refuse to help their children pin down the suspects – oftentimes fathers who are the family’s breadwinners.

Improving conviction rate

In an effort to improve the rate of conviction of cases, the DOJ will be leading efforts to amend the conduct of preliminary investigations.

Remulla said his department is holding constant dialogues with the Supreme Court (SC) in amending the rules of court.

“Specifically, we have reached an agreement whereby the DOJ will lead the efforts to amend Rule 112 on preliminary investigation in the Rules of Court,” he said in his speech before the PNP-CIDG.

Under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, a preliminary investigation is an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground to “engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the (one) responsible is probably guilty” and should be held for trial.

Under the rules, a preliminary investigation is required to be conducted before the filing of a complaint or information for an offense where the penalty prescribed by law is at least four years, two months and one day without regard to the fine.

Remulla said the DOJ and the police will work together in the case build-up.

“In this setup, prosecutors in the DOJ will assist and encourage the police force in their fight against criminality,” he said.

With prosecutors and police officers working hand-in-hand, Remulla said the quality of evidence collected and presented in court will improve and result in a higher conviction rate.

Remulla said that with the CIDG working together with the DOJ’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the government will have two crime-fighting agencies.

He cited the case of slain broadcaster Percy Lapid in which the NBI and the CIDG interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence that led to the filing of cases against former Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag.

It is for this reason that the DOJ is seeking to fill the 1,000 vacant plantilla positions at the NBI so that the bureau can have more manpower.

The NBI currently has around 600 personnel nationwide.

AI technology

In a related development, the PNP got a boost in its campaign against online sexual abuse after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offered its artificial intelligence (AI) technology provider hub to the PNP for free.

Representatives from the UAE made the offer during a high-level meeting with top PNP officials, led by Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., on the sidelines of the 24th Asian Regional Conference in Abu Dhabi.

The PNP chief met with UAE officials headed by Lt. Col Dana Almarzooqi, director general of the International Affairs Bureau and deputy director of the International Criminal Police Organization’s National Central Bureau Abu Dhabi last Wednesday.

The meeting centered on discussions on emerging criminal trends such as money laundering, financial crimes, drug trafficking and cybercrimes.

Informed that some foreigners are engaged in online sexual exploitation, UAE officials offered their AI technology provider hub for free to boost the PNP’s capabilities in combating online sexual abuse.

They also commended the PNP’s interventions in dealing with cybercrimes and human trafficking.

In response, Azurin expressed gratitude to the UAE for its support and cooperation in combating transnational crimes.

“The PNP is determined to make the Philippines a safer place for everyone, and our partnership with UAE will certainly bring us closer to this noble endeavor,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Azurin expressed confidence that the two countries can overcome the challenges posed by crimes and create a safer future for their citizens.

Both sides were also open to holding quarterly meetings as well as create an international investigation affairs bureau that will conduct investigations and operations to arrest foreign offenders.

Azurin also tackled online gambling as an emerging issue in the Philippines and the Asian region.

“This is a problem that needs to be addressed globally and we are committed to working with our international partners to tackle this issue head-on,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Philippines has fully met, if not exceeded, the minimum standards in addressing human trafficking.

Speaking at the same forum, Azurin presented the PNP’s accomplishments and noted the Philippines’ serious and sustained effort against human trafficking.

The PNP chief said that for seven consecutive years, the Philippines has maintained its Tier 1 status in the annual Trafficking in Persons report.

He said the US State Department has recognized Manila’s assistance to 6,772 potential trafficking victims and 1,443 Filipino trafficking survivors from the Middle East and Asia.

“It lauded the country’s efforts to convict and punish traffickers and the increased use of prosecution procedures, reducing further harm to the victims,” he said.

Moreover, Azurin presented the PNP Women and Children Protection Center report, stating that of the estimated 10 million overseas Filipino workers in nearly 170 countries, around 300,000 or three percent are without contracts.

He noted that the Philippines is among the source countries of victims falling prey to human trafficking.

Cases of labor trafficking, according to Azurin, are prevalent in countries in the Middle East, particularly among household and construction workers.

To curb these crimes, Azurin said they have strengthened their collaboration with other government agencies through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking which serves as the coordinating and monitoring mechanism for all anti-human trafficking efforts of the government.

The PNP also forged a partnership with the Anti-Money Laundering Council and other private financial institutions, both local and abroad, to help track suspicious transactions between foreign or local individuals believed to be involved in purchasing or soliciting child abuse materials.

“Over the past years, the synergies of the international community have achieved remarkable results which the Philippines will continue to support to fully address the crimes that transcend national boundaries,” Azurin said.

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