The ethics of prosecution PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 March 2018 12:41

LOOKING IN

BY ROD BALBON

We cannot understand why the PNP and the CIDG are given the power to gather evidence, weight and analyze it, and file a complaint or information for its resolution by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Experience tells us that these police agencies don’t have the legal expertise in the preparation of evidence to convict a criminal.

Many criminals have gone scot-free because the evidence they presented are weak, uncorroborated, and even invented. This is shown by the dismissal of the case involving big-time drug lords Sherwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, and Peter Co drug case by the DOJ. The CIDG presented only one evidence, and that was the testimonies of Espinosa’s driver, who eventually recanted his statements thereby making the case weak and cannot stand the rigors of moral certainty. This case became very popular and given wide coverage by newspapers, radios, and television. Many have even witnessed and heard the self confessed testimonies of Sherwin Espinosa and his role and involvement in drug distribution in the Visayas and in the National Penitentiary during the Senate inquiry.

But why did the CIDG disregard these confessed testimonies given under oath by him which will undoubtedly pin and convict him? Many are very suspicious that this agency has been paid large amount money to present this one and only evidence—the retracted testimonies of his driver and disregard the other incriminating evidence that will convict him beyond reasonable doubt?

In defense of this agency, General Bato de la Rosa laments and asks why the prosecuting arm of the DOJ didn’t notify the CIDG of this legal blunder. He asseverates that the DOJ should have informed the CIDG that the sole evidence it presented cannot hold water. But the DOJ went headlong in resolving to dismiss the information filed by the CIDG for lack of evidence. Many are likewise very suspicious that the assigned DOJ prosecutors in this case have also been given large amount of money to resolve the case in dismissing the information filed by the CIDG.

This is where the problem lies. Both agencies have been careless and trigger-happy by just filing an information without carefully analyzing the weight of their evidence and its eventual consequences.

Personally, I have witnessed many criminal cases, especially drug cases, filed by the CIDG and the DOJ that were dismissed by the RTC Judge. Cases of frame-up or simply filed to exact money from the innocent accused and his relatives are the usual practice. When money is not given, the drug case is filed and the innocent accuse languishes in jail for years until the termination of his case. He stays indefinitely in jail since he is disqualified by law to file a bail bond for his temporary release.

Why do prosecutors indict even when they are not morally convinced that they have the evidence to convict? Our Constitution and the Rules of Penal Procedures require “probable cause” to file the information, but whether to file it or not is a matter left to the proverbial “prosecutorial discretion”. If the prosecutor only has “probable cause”, which was used to be called “prima facie evidence”, then it should not be a basis to subject an innocent person to the rigors and humiliation of a criminal trial. Using this as a basis for criminal prosecution in the hope of fishing and finding more evidence to meet “proof beyond reasonable doubt” is deceitful and  dishonest.

In the US and British prosecutorial guidelines, prosecutors are always reminded and keep in their minds that their job is not to “win” but to help administer justice. They file and prosecute cases only if they have a firm and moral certainty in the guilt of the defendant. There must be enough evidence to attain a conviction.

The message here is very clear. Prosecutors should not prosecute unless they are morally certain that the evidence is sufficient to obtain a conviction. They have no business prosecuting if they don’t actually believe in the guilt of the accused as this is morally wrong.

Recall for example the numerous cases filed against former President Gloria Arroyo after her term. They were all dismissed which only showed that they were merely filed to harass but not really to satisfy the demands of justice. Then there were also the cases against Senators Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla. They will all be soon released for lack of evidence for the Sandiganbayan to proceed for their trial and conviction. This is plainly harassment by reason of politics. Lastly, there was the case of the 39 drums against Lepeng Wee. He was indicted and convicted by the RTC on the basis of fabricated evidence concocted by his political opponent. His conviction was eventually reversed by the Court of Appeals on appeal.

To unclog our jails and save the accused from suffering incarceration, from unnecessary expenses and the rigors and humiliation of criminal trial, prosecutors should only file criminal cases if in their judicious estimation and moral belief will obtain conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 March 2018 12:44