DOJ jurisdiction in P6.4 B BOC shabu smuggling contested PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 07 October 2017 12:51

KAKAMPI MO ANG BATAS

BY Atty. BATAS MAURICIO

LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, The naive proceed and pay the penalty…” (Proverbs 27:12, the Holy Bible).

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DOJ JURISDICTION CONTESTED IN THE P6.4 BILLON CUSTOMS SHABU SMUGGLING: Just exactly who has the right to conduct a preliminary investigation—or the initial inquiry to determine if a crime has been committed and if the person being accused of that crime probably committed it—against officials and employees of government who are facing criminal charges?

I am asking this question because during the hearing last Thursday, October 05, 2017, by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling at the Bureau of Customs where the primary accused is former Customs Commissioner Nick Faeldon, he revived the long-festeringn issue—is it the DOJ or the Ombudsman which has the jurisdiction to investigate him and other officials of government like him?

According to the former Customs chief, it is the Ombudsman which has the right to investigate him and not the DOJ. His argument was that, as the head of the BOC then, he had a salary grade of “30”.

He said that all government officials who have a salary grade of 30 or higher are under the investigative powers of the Ombudsman. He is anchoring his plea on the laws that created the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan.

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WHAT DOES THE OMBUDSMAN LAW PROVIDE RE: PROBE OF GOVERNMENT MEN? To enable all of us to fully understand this point, I am going to reprint here what the Ombudsman Act of 1989 (Republic Act 6770) and Republic Act 8249 about the Sandiganbayan are saying. Under the Ombudsman Act of 1989, it is clear that it is the Ombudsman that is vested with the primary jurisdiction to conduct preliminary investigations of criminal cases that are triable by the Sandiganbayan.

On the other hand, Republic Act 8249 holds that it is the Sandiganbayan which has jurisdiction over criminal cases that involve officials and employees of the executive branch of government, if these officials and employees have a salary grade of “27” or higher.

That being the case, if it is only this law which is to be considered in the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling case against Faeldon, there would be no doubt at all that the DOJ would not have any right to investigate the case against him, precisely because his salary grade is “30”. It would be the Ombudsman that would have the right to handle the preliminary investigation against him.

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RA 9165 MANDATES DOJ PROSECUTION OF DRUGS CASES IN RTCs: But Faeldon has a problem here, because there is an existing law that specifically covers cases on illegal drugs. This is Republic Act 9165, and because this is a law that specifically applies to drugs, this is the law that should apply to all cases involving illegal drugs.

This is what Section 90, Article XI of RA 9165 provides: “Jurisdiction. – The Supreme Court shall designate special courts from among the existing Regional Trial Courts in each judicial region to exclusively try and hear cases involving violations of this Act…The DOJ shall designate special prosecutors to exclusively handle cases involving violations of this Act…”

This should be very clear: the DOJ has the right to designate special prosecutors that will “exclusively” handle cases involving drugs. The wording of the law leaves no room for doubt that it is the DOJ and its special prosecutors which have the right to handle the preliminary investigation of illegal drugs cases, as well as the right to prosecute it in the RTCs.

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