26 September 2011

A beautiful and good morning to all of you – team DOJ!

The 25th of September of each year is a special day for us in the Department of Justice. It is a time to quickly pause and reflect on the historic nature of our beloved institution and our eminent tasks. 114 years of existence is not to be taken lightly – it means that the DOJ's mandate is so essential that it was one of the first offices created under the Revolutionary Assembly in 1897. It also means that we need to continue to stay young and dynamic to be responsive and relevant to a fast-changing world. Yet our mission remains one and the same: to deliver justice for all.

It may take a whole day to present our institutional achievements through the years but please allow me, as your leader and servant, to summarize what we have done under our watch, under our dear President Aquino with this first formal State of the Department Address (SODA).

We have regained the trust of the people. This is seen in the number of cases lodged with us – from extrajudicial killings, to tax evasion and smuggling, to human and drug trafficking and to anti-graft cases, including plunder cases against officials of the previous administration.

I am pleased to report that from July 1, 2010 to the present, 30 convictions were scored in our campaign against human trafficking. Task Force BIR/RATES cases instituted eight cases with the Court of Tax Appeals and successfully prosecuted Dr. Joel Mendez, Benjamin Kintanar and Ma. Lourdes Ramos de Guzman. Informations for tax evasion had been filed with the Court of Tax Appeals against former NEDA Director-General Romulo Neri, former AFP Comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife and Macario Gaw, among others, the latter accounting for the biggest tax evasion case so far, with tax liability amounting to more than P2.7 billion. Task Force on Anti-Smuggling or RATS cases yielded four resolved cases and one filed with the CTA. Through the Special Task Force to Address Extralegal Killings and Enforced Disappearance, we continue to closely monitor newly reported extrajudicial killings and past cases to ensure that we turn the tide on the culture of impunity.

Soon, the ongoing revamp of the critical Task Forces, such as those on Human Trafficking, RATS and RATES cases, business scam, illegal recruitment, intellectual property, and “Titulong Malinis”, will be completed to boost output. Even then, the accomplishments of the National Prosecution Service already include the resolution of the La Salle bar examinations blast; illegal recruitment and drug charges against Tita Cacayan, the recruiter of Sally Ordinario Villanueva; the charges for murder and illegal possession of explosive against the “gift bomber” in Forbes; carnapping with homicide against the Dominguez brothers in the Lozano case; serious illegal detention and illegal possession of firearms against Gregorio Mendoza, the brother of hostage taker Rolando Mendoza; frustrated homicide case filed vs. Jason Ivler for the assault of NBI agents; murder charge against the suspects in the killing of Maguindanao Prosecutor Balt; frustrated homicide case filed versus Cavite policemen for the killing of the bodyguard of Cong. Plaridel Abaya during the last elections; and syndicated estafa against Delfin Lee of Global Asiatique. The DOJ, as protector of human rights, also pinned down Senior Inspector Joselito Binayog for carrying out acts of torture. Under the banner of transparency, update reports on major, high profile cases are now available in our official website for well-meaning citizens to track our performance – a first in the DOJ.

As DOJ’s contributions to the Administration’s very earnest crime busting efforts, task forces were created jointly with DILG, on anti-kidnapping and anti-carnapping, as we have institutionalized the policy/practice of prosecutors’ involvement in case build-up. Jointly with COMELEC, we are also looking into the 2004 and 2007 poll fraud.

It is also the first time in the history of the National Bureau of Investigation that we are finally migrating to a computer-based Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). It took months of preparation and political will to cut away the previous provider and to take charge of a cornerstone of our fight against criminality by transforming our processes. We shall ensure that this project sets the gold standard of big-ticket procurement items in government. For the first time in decades, there will be hiring of 100 NBI agents every year for the next five years to double the current investigative personnel of the NBI.

It is also a first for the Bureau of Immigration to institute massive organizational changes from institutionalizing a performance based system to rationalizing agents. This resulted to the dismissal of the 26 BI agents for graft and corruption with our Witness Protection Program in close assistance. Speaking of the WPP, as evidence of its utility in our campaign against criminality, it scores an outstanding 94% in conviction with witnesses in the program. We continue to streamline its operations and optimize its resources.

The OSG and the OGCC have also lodged significant gains with the latter reporting a zero backlog of opinions and contract reviews – a first among the DOJ agencies. Earlier we witnessed the launch of the OGCC and NPS Rules in addition to existing Solicitor's Manual. This is a Department-wide effort to review, update and simplify our rules of procedure to cut down on delay. DOJ positions papers on pending bills, timely submitted and well researched, are reaching a high point based on the requests of Congress.With the OSEC Legal Staff and the high caliber PCGG Commissioners and lawyers, we are confident that the DOJ legal team will hold the fort and contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law with stability and predictability in our decisions.

The Corrections Cluster is next. Who would have known that an escapee from Bilibid made possible to spotlight national attention and government resources to the long suppressed cries for help of our correctional officers Instead of being reactive, we turned the incident into an opportunity for change. We expect key results in the near term with the BuCor, PPA and BPP team putting their heads and hearts together.

Under our term, the Land Registration Authority, a long time member of the DOJ family, was returned to the fold with an invigorated leadership intent on completing its computerized nationwide landtitling system. Our constant member, the Public Attorney's Office, shows its reliability in its adherence to providing legal assistance to whoever needs it most including those coming for help at the DOJ Action Center.

On a broader front, the Department was the early advocate for the ratification of the Rome Statute now done. We successfully signed the first Resident Legal Adviser Program with our main ally, the United States. The DOJ now chairs the Rule of Law Cluster of the Philippine Development Forum, the platform for our partners on technical assistance. We successfully concluded the Justice Sector Reform Project with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which agreed, for the first time, to fully adopt the DOJ's strategic development agenda as its framework of cooperation. The Justice Sector Coordinating Council or the JSCC, with the Department as a pivotal member, is gaining traction to provide a mechanism to address systemic issues plaguing justice agencies. We also constituted the first Criminal Code Committee in partnership with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, a longstanding German foundation in the country, to answer the need for a rehaul of our old Revised Penal Code and held the first Leadership and Management Development Course for prosecutors to address organizational issues.

Internally, we have put in place a governance system that is open and listening. This is seen in the distribution of fellowships and training grants and the conduct of regular Executive Committee (ExeCom) and Management Committee (ManCom) meetings and our yearly strategic planning session. Our rationalized systems will translate to efficiency and productivity of our personnel. We have prohibited political endorsements for appointments and promotions to instill meritocracy, a first for any line agency. We are reforming our procurement process and another first in our public financial management (PFM), regular financial reports will be made during Execoms. On social media, the DOJ was also the first agency to launch its Facebook page to foster a sense of community.

There have been, and always will be, challenges from respondents and accused, from change resistors to the corrupt. We shall overcome: guided by our unwavering commitment to the truth, backed up with industry and competency.

We shall carry on. We shall significantly resolve our pending cases, big or small. We shall monitor our self-imposed milestones as we break barriers in issuances including the groundbreaking advisory opinions beginning with checkpoints and the latest on carnapping. Our other firsts include the DOJ's designation as the country's Competition Authority to level the playing field for economic justice and the creation of an Office for Cybercrime to increase our forensic capability on electronic evidence. We look forward to a first National Criminal Justice Summit in December 2011 to provide a comprehensive list of our tasks. This is also when we will launch the first-ever Department of Justice Training Institute in partnership with the Development Academy of the Philippines. We are incubating a Department of Justice Criminal Research Institute to once and for all address the gaps in statistical data, working definitions, common usage fields and overaching framework and philosophy for the Philippine Criminal Justice System (CJS). Meanwhile, our 2010 Annual Report sets the baseline and our 2011 full year report will consolidate the gains and point to our future direction.

We acknowledge and affirm that all our efforts will not amount to anything unless results are delivered and impact felt by the people. With deep humility, we note that in recent history, it is in this period that the DOJ garnered highest trust and approval ratings inspite of the adversarial nature of our agencies and our mandate. Our national and international partners recognize our hardwork and dedication to our duty. The President continues to load us with significant work. Individual members of the Department have been recognized for their efforts and sacrifice. If not for anything else, I will be happy that our agency pride has been restored and the DOJ is held to the highest standard of excellence.

As we celebrate our founding day, we remember and cherish our fallen comrades as we cheer the heroes in our midst. And so our mission continues – to deliver justice for all, or none at all. Thank you for your support, your love and your camaraderie. Mabuhay ang team DOJ!

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