Dela Rosa questions proposal to give investigative powers to judiciary marshals

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2021 09:55 PM

MANILA - Senator Ronald dela Rosa on Wednesday questioned the proposed granting of investigative powers to the Office of the Judiciary Marshals, as the Senate deliberated Wednesday on the bill on the office’s creation. 

Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, expressed concern that a constitutional issue may be involved, since the investigation of crimes is vested in the police and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which are both under the executive department.

“Kung bibigyan natin ng investigative power ang Office of the Judiciary Marshals para mag-imbestiga ng mga kaso involving judges, justice at court personnel, hindi ba posible na magkaroon ng encroachment of power and judiciary at ang executive?

“I share with you (Gordon) in your frustrations over what is happening right now, yung mga judges natin ay pinapatay at very low yung crime solution efficiency na pinapakita ngayon ng ating mga law enforcement at investigative agencies. It is my humber opinion… we cannot solve this problem by compounding to the problem by adding additional structural or systemic problems na mangyayari dito kung magkakaroon ng overlapping of functions between and among law enforcement agencies,” Dela Rosa said.

As an example, he cited a possible conflict on “who owns the crime scene” in a scenario where a judge is killed in an ambush and the judiciary marshals, PNP, and NBI all come in to probe the incident. 

Dela Rosa also questioned the lack of check and balance when a case investigated by the judiciary marshals lands in court, since both the courts and Office of the Judiciary Marshals belong to the same branch of government. 

“Ang problema ngayon, mangyayari dyan ang judiciary marshals under the judiciary, sila na nag-imbestiga at ang court din sila din magde-decide. Hindi ba pwedeng magkaroon ng undue influence yung magiging desisyon ng korte sa kaso na kanilang binigyan ng decision na ang nag-conduct ng investigation ay isang opisina na under din sa kanila sa judiciary?” Dela Rosa asked.

Senate Bill No. 1947 sponsor and Justice Committee chairman, Sen. Richard Gordon, explained the proposed measure is primarily intended for the protection of judges, court officials and personnel who are constantly under threat because of the nature of their job.

Gordon assured Dela Rosa, the bill “limits” the scope of investigations the judiciary marshals may conduct.

“The judiciary marshals are really confined to investigations that the Supreme Court would tell them to do… the investigative power really concerns the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleadings and procedures in all courts — that’s how they are limited. 

“For the judiciary marshals, their duty to protect the judges would be paramount; and it’s good for the public to know and for those who feel bad [over outcome of cases] who threaten judges to know that there is the judiciary marshals who would really investigate because that is their principal purpose: to protect the judges,” Gordon said. 

Gordon further explained, granting the marshals the power to investigate crimes against officials and members of the judiciary will hasten the resolution of these offenses, and deter further attacks on judges and other court workers. 

“My concern really is, when a judge’s case (killing) is not solved, it creates confidence on the part of those who break the law who kill judges that they can kill again, especially if our PNP and NBI do not act quickly… It is my humble representation that we should allow the justices of the Supreme Court (SC), the Chief Justice, to also protect his people,” Gordon said.

He added, “It’s a very strong signal that we are not going to allow judges to be killed and there would be an arm in the judicary with primary jurisdiction to investigate the case”. 

Senator Panfilo Lacson, also a former PNP chief, likewise addressed Dela Rosa’s concern over possible “undue influence”, citing the current set-up where findings of NBI investigations lead to the filing of criminal complaints before the National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

“I do believe that the issue on undue influence will not come into play… it is somehow akin with the situation of the NBI conducting criminal investigation and after that they will have to refer it to the Department of Justice and National Prosecution Service, and both of them (NBI, NPS) are under the Secretary of Justice,” said Lacson. 

POSSIBLE CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE 

Minority Leader Sen. Franklin Drilon meanwhile moved to ask the senate legal office and Committee on Justice to submit a legal brief on the creation of the customs police, airport police, and similar entities.

This is in view of section 6, article XVI of the 1987 Constitution which provides, “The State shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character, to be administered and controlled by a national police commission.”

“Sen. Dela Rosa has brought out a very serious constitutional issue about the interpretation of a police force that is national in scope and civilian in character. I did not realize that indeed there is a basis for the question, ‘how can you justify the existence of a customs police, of an airport police, etc., etc., when they are already reporting to different commands?” Drilon pointed out.

He added, “This is a serious constitutional issue brought up by Sen. Dela Rosa.”

The SC had asked for the creation of the judiciary marshals, as it explained the executive and legislative departments have their respective security entities.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta earlier said, “We want a security marshal so we would have the power to investigate and file cases before the courts, and the investigation will be faster.”

Records of the SC Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) show 31 trial court judges have been killed from January 1999 to November 2019 alone.

Under the bill, the marshals will also be empowered to conduct risk assessments and threats analyses for the protection of judges and court workers; enforce arrest warrants; and probe the non-service of warrants, among others. 

The interpellation period for the bill will continue at a later date. 

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