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 on Oct. 5 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-festering 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.
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.
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.
When will the leaders and officers of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), like newly installed Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena, ever learn? With his already lengthy service in government, Lapena should already know by now that corruption will continue at the bureau even if its misfits and corrupt officials and employees are purged every now and then, if their replacements similarly do not have fear and love of God in their hearts.
It may happen that during the initial stages of their work, the new officials and employees will display efficiency and clean service, so that, during that time, distribution of grease money for transactions in the bureau (derisively called “tara”) may stop or be considerably lessened. But as previous instances in the country will show, involving even presidents who have been installed on the crest of a strong outcry against corruption of their predecessors, graft will somehow find its way once again.
Many are saying that new officials who initially display probity are simply “eaten up” by the corrupt system once they get to know their way around. But this is what I say: if only these officials have fear and love of our God and Savior in their hearts, they would never allow themselves to be enmeshed in corruption, choosing instead to remain honest and righteous in their work.
If the truth be told, the reason corruption continues to thrive in our country is that, almost all Filipinos have already strayed away from God. Whether they are from the higher echelons of society, rich and powerful, or whether they are wallowing in poverty, poor and marginalized, nobody but nobody entertains fear and love of God in their hearts anymore. In their thoughts, words, action, and appearances, they are concerned only about themselves and their interests.
Gone are the respect, the recognition, thanksgiving, and giving of honor, to God among many Filipinos. This is largely due to the truth that the faith of many is no longer genuine and is generally a joke. Many say they are Christians, but they no longer know the commands of Jesus, precisely because they no longer read His Word, the Bible.
And because many Filipinos no longer desire to read the Bible, they are no longer shaped by the commands that would have led them to good thoughts, peaceful and respectful speech, humble behavior, and appearances that are truly pleasing to God. What is more fearful and frightening is that, their minds have become clearly controlled not by God and His commands anymore, but by the devil.
As a consequence, I am proposing to Lapena, to President Duterte, and to all others who are in government, and even to all our countrymen: the change that we must all be pursuing and insisting on is the change among ourselves towards a more healthy knowledge of, and obedience to, God and His commandments.
The Duterte government must make as its priority the recognition, thanksgiving, and giving honor to God at all times, in the minds, speech, behavior or conduct, and in the appearance of everyone, from the President himself, to the Vice President, to the members of the two houses of Congress, the judiciary, and to all Filipinos.
We must all strive to regularly call, with all sincerity and candor, on God through unceasing prayers. The government must also talk to the leaders of the different religious and spiritual groups in the Philippines to solicit their help to earnestly teach their members the Word of God from the Bible, or from any other holy book of other groups. This maybe difficult at the start, but God Himself will act if we all do this honestly.