DOJ may adjudicate on UP-DND Pact termination – Guevarra

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2021   •   303

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) may end up adjudicating on the ongoing dispute between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) relating to the abrogation of an agreement that has, for decades, barred the entry of government troops into UP campuses without prior coordination, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

In a message to reporters, Guevarra said this is pursuant to Presidential Decree (PD) 242, which prescribes the procedure for administrative settlement or adjudication of disputes, claims, and controversies between or among government offices, agencies, and instrumentalities, including government-owned and -controlled corporations.

“The ongoing dispute between the UP and the DND, both national government agencies/instrumentalities, regarding the cancellation or abrogation of their 1989 agreement may end up with the DOJ for administrative adjudication pursuant to PD 242 (which remains good law),” Guevarra said.

Because of this, the Justice secretary said he will decline to state his stance on the matter.

“It will therefore be premature for the DOJ to make any comment on the dispute at this time,” he said.

The DND unilaterally ended the 31-year-old agreement with UP, citing information that the New People’s Army is recruiting students inside UP campuses.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier explained that the deal is ‘obsolete’ and that UP has become “a breeding ground” and “a safe haven for enemies of the state.” – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DOJ reiterates law enforcers should not interfere with community pantries

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reiterated that law enforcement agents should not interfere with anyone doing good deeds which include setting up community pantries.

In a statement, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said a law enforcer should also not question individuals involved in community pantries unless they are violating laws.

“Suffice it to say that a person voluntarily doing an act of kindness and compassion toward his neighbor should be left alone,” he said.

“It is not proper for law enforcement agents to interrogate him unless there is reason to believe that he is violating any law, ordinance, rule, or regulation for the good or welfare of the community,” he added.

However, Guevarra refused to comment if police authorities violated the privacy act in gathering information about the organizers of community pantries. He also clarified that organizers are not required to fill out forms.

“Organizers of community pantries have no legal duty or are under any compulsion to fill out any forms, as these are not considered business, much less illegal activities,” he said. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

DILG backs proposed community service as penalty for quarantine violators

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday expressed support for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) proposal to impose community service instead of jail time as a penalty for those who violate quarantine protocols against COVID-19.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya issued the statement during the Laging Handa public briefing when asked about Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s suggestion.

Malaya, however, clarified that quarantine violators are not immediately arrested under the existing policy. He said violators are usually given a warning for the first offense and are asked to pay a fine for the second offense.

The DILG official also said that the local government units are the ones that set their own penalties for quarantine violations through local ordinances.

“Let me first say that our policy is not to go straight to arrests. In fact, most of the time, the first offense only yields a warning, and the second offense is usually a fine” Malaya said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“These penalties are within the scope of ordinances passed by cities and municipalities and signed by mayors. So, these are not controlled by the National Task Force of Inter-Agency Task Force,” he added. “Having said that, we support this initiative, and if our councilors are willing to amend their ordinances, that’s well and good. It might be better to have [violators] do community service instead.”

Guevara, in a Palace press briefing on Monday, said he has recommended to the Inter-Agency Task Force not to arrest or detain those who continue to violate quarantine protocols, and instead impose community service as a punishment.

The DOJ chief said the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act penalizes “non-cooperation” of persons identified as having a notifiable disease and those who are supposed to report it.

He, however, said that the law was not specific when it came to actual violations.

“Yung statutes like Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases, meron doong provision on non-cooperation, but you know medyo hindi siya shoot na shoot eh, hindi sya talagang very exact to the actual violation,” he said.

“I also recommend that in the enforcement, the stricter enforcement of the ordinances, that LGUs consider the possibility of imposing na lamang the penalty of community service for those who will continue to violate our ordinances rather than imprison or rather than putting them in jail or fining them, eh kasi talaga ngang mahirap na ang buhay sa ECQ,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DOJ orders NBI to probe Calbayog mayor’s slay

Robie de Guzman   •   March 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice on Tuesday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe into the shooting incident that killed Calbayog City, Samar Mayor Ronaldo Aquino.

In the Department Order No. 057 dated March 9, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra directed the NBI to look into the incident that claimed the lives of Aquino and his three aides.

Guevarra cited the provisions of Republic Act 10867 or the National Bureau of Investigation Reorganization and Modernization Act in authorizing the agency to undertake the investigation.

“…[T]he NBI, through officer-in-charge Eric Distor, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct an investigation on the shooting incident in Calbayog City, Samar on March 8 which claimed the lives of Mayor Ronaldo Aquino of Calbayog City and other persons,” the order stated.

The investigating body was also directed to file appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in connection with the case, if evidence warrants.

The NBI has been given ten days to submit reports on the progress of the investigation to the Office of the Secretary of Justice.

Initial police report showed that Mayor Aquino and his aides were killed after a gunfight with armed men riding another vehicle on Monday afternoon in Barangay Lonoy, Tinambacan District in Calbayog.

The mayor and his aides were aboard their vehicle going to the northern part of Calbayog City when they thought they were being tailed by another vehicle.

One of Aquino’s security details allegedly fired at the other vehicle and its passengers retaliated.

The passengers of the other vehicle turned out to be members of the Philippine National Police Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Group.

Aquino, his driver and a security escort were killed in the incident while another aide was rushed to a hospital.

A police officer was also killed while another was injured.

Guevarra earlier told reporters that the investigation has been referred to the NBI “for the simple reason” that the other party involved is the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The PNP, for its part, said it has formed a special task group to look into the incident as well as the involvement of police officers.

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