Prosecutors: Modern-day heroes

“This is a leap from ‘probable cause’ as it requires all the elements of a crime to be supported by sufficient evidence.

The Department of Justice has introduced Department Circular No. 20 where prosecutors will embark on a completely different role altogether. This department circular requires a more thorough case build-up for heinous crimes and for violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, Anti-Terrorism Act, Anti-Terrorist Financing and Suppression Act and all Special Penal Laws that carry the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua or Life Imprisonment. The significance of this department circular is best emphasized in a before-and-after manner:

Before, only law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency gathered evidence, collated them, and transmitted the same to the prosecutors. The proactive prosecutors volunteered their services but were not required to participate in the case build-up stage. Their brilliant legal minds were often confined within the walls of the Justice Halls where the prosecutors’ offices are located.

Before, prosecutors would determine whether there was probable cause. They would ask themselves whether or not the person against whom a complaint was filed is probably guilty of the crime complained of. This level of proof is low. “Probable cause” did not require that all the elements were backed by evidence as long as there was that probability of guilt.

Now, prosecutors are required to participate in the case build-up stage. They will work hand-in-hand with law enforcement agencies to collect evidence and gather witness statements. Their legal expertise will now be the guiding light for law enforcement agencies to search in the right places, and distinguish relevant evidence from that which is irrelevant. They will be on the ground and at the crime scene from the very start.

Now, prosecutors will need to determine whether there is a prima facie case and a reasonable certainty of evidence. Without this, no criminal case will be filed. This is a leap from “probable cause” as it requires all the elements of a crime to be supported by sufficient evidence. Now, only strong and quality cases will be filed in court, screening and weeding out the weak cases or those cases where evidence of innocence is shown.

Indeed, prosecutors will have their hands full. Certainly, prosecutors will be spread thin throughout the country. With this Department Circular, they are to make themselves available every hour of the day. They are to accompany law enforcement agencies in buy-bust operations, controlled delivery operations and the like.

However, without a doubt, they will become our modern-day heroes. Their work has just become a lot more noble and honorable. I applaud the prosecutors for their work every single day. The reform just made will definitely not be easy to adjust to. Yet I believe that this is what our people need to achieve the peace and order they deserve.

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