Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has introduced a measure seeking to address the current state of criminal investigation in the country which continues to be slow and ineffective in prosecuting criminal cases and securing convictions in court.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, filed Senate Bill No. 182 which seeks to streamline and strengthen the process of criminal investigation and thereby, expedite and improve the administration of criminal justice in the country.
The measure also seeks to repeal the already-antiquated Republic Act No. 5180, or “An Act Prescribing a Uniform System of Preliminary Investigation by Provincial and City Fiscals and their Assistants, and by State Attorneys or their Assistants.”
“There is a need to overhaul the system to effectively address chronic delays and systemic inefficiency in litigating crimes,” said De Lima, further citing the famous legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied.”
“This measure aims to streamline and strengthen the process of criminal investigation that will expedite and improve the administration of the criminal justice system in the country,” she added.
In the Philippines, there is a notoriously slow and under-resourced judicial system especially since the Philippine National Police (PNP) has conducted a nationwide crime crackdown pursuant to Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
It is not also uncommon for defendants in the country to wait months between hearings, only for the session to be delayed because a judge is sick or the case gets reassigned to a new judge and the whole process starts from scratch.
The proposed measure, to be known as the “Criminal Investigation Act of 2019,” highlighted two important stages in criminal investigation, namely the proper investigation stage and preliminary hearing stage.
The former justice secretary explained that the investigation stage requires the investigating law enforcement officer and the investigating prosecutor to work hand-in-hand by combining their forensic and legal expertise to come up with a solid case.
“The fusion of functions will make the handling of evidence during the investigation stage more systematic,” she said.
“Thereafter, the investigating prosecutor, based on the complaint and/or the result of the criminal investigation which they themselves led and supervised, shall determine, without need of additional adversarial proceedings, whether there is _a prima facie case_ to elevate the case to court,” she added.
The lady Senator from Bicol also pointed out that the preliminary hearing stage requires the trial judge to evaluate the evidence of both parties and resolves all other pre-trial incidents in one proceeding.
“During the end of which a determination shall be made using the standard of preponderance of evidence whether a full-blown criminal trial is warranted,” she said.
De Lima said she hopes SB No. 182 will get enough support from her Senate colleagues to finally enhance the prosecution and justice system and ensure a speedier and more effective administration of criminal justice in the country.
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