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Rid prosecutors’ ranks of ‘incompetents,’ Aguirre urged

12:02 AM August 01, 2016

IN 44 years of active litigation practice, I have yet to see a justice secretary seriously address the chronic and almost unabated incompetence and corruption in prosecutors’ offices at all levels—city, provincial and state.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre is himself a litigation lawyer and I assume he is fully aware of and has in many instances experienced disgust and disappointment over this malady in our criminal justice system.

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Let me cite actual cases.

A deputy city prosecutor in Iloilo denied a request to subpoena documents in the possession of someone who was not a party to the case because the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure do not allow the subpoena of documents by public prosecutors during preliminary investigation. The documents were intended to prove respondent’s defense.

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I argued that the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure is not the only procedural rule in criminal cases. I cited Section 37 of the Administrative Code of 1987 which grants the Office of the City Prosecutor the authority to “require the production of documents by subpoena duces tecum” during investigation.

The prosecutor obstinately insisted on his clearly erroneous ruling. (He has since retired.)

So did an assistant city prosecutor of Parañaque. He refused to grant my motion to require respondents to produce documents that were mentioned but not attached to their counteraffidavit for the same reason—a provision in the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.

What travesty of justice! The information filed by the prosecutor in Iloilo was dismissed by the court for want of probable cause. The petition for review on the resolution of the Parañaque prosecutor is still pending with the Department of Justice.

In a drug case (CA GR Sp No. 129274, 6/11/13), the Court of Appeals criticized the city prosecutor, the concerned assistants in his office, and then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for detaining a woman for five years and two months without charging her in court. The prosecutors involved are still in the justice department. Ironically, one has even been promoted.

There are other cases similar to this that I know.

If the good justice secretary would allow me to suggest, a team of competent, incorruptible lawyers with proven probity must be formed in the justice department to review the rulings of prosecutors offices, and take note of the perennial incompetents and corrupt who should either be dismissed or assigned to far-flung places like Jolo, Sulu, where fewer people have the means to corrupt them.

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When a prosecutor by his academic record appears competent but his resolutions unmistakably mirror incompetence, then we can safely assume there is more than meets the eye.

—REX G. RICO, Rico & Associates Lawyers, [email protected]

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TAGS: case, crime, letter, Letter to the Editor, opinion, Prosecutor, Vitaliano Aguirre
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