DOJ brings back NBI power to investigate drug cases

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday, December 6, brought back the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) into probes of drug cases, consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte’s new memorandum on the war on drugs.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II signed Department Order Number 778, revoking an earlier order for the NBI to leave to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) all operations against illegal drugs. 

DOJ brings NBI back again to investigation of drugs cases. Aguirre earlier said Duterte's drug war memo barred the NBI from investigating Faeldon. | via @lianbuan — Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) December 6, 2017

Aguirre signed the earlier order because Duterte assigned PDEA as the "sole agency" in the war on drugs. The new department order follows Duterte’s new memorandum that brings back the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the campaign in support of PDEA.

Duterte’s earlier memorandum was what barred the NBI from investigating the P6.4-billion drug shipment that was smuggled through the Bureau of Customs, Aguirre said.

Because the NBI couldn’t exercise its usual function of doing case buildup, the PDEA was left on its own to file the complaint. Later on, the DOJ panel cleared Customs officials including former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon because of PDEA’s "defective" complaint.

The DOJ panel said it was constrained to only the evidence presented by the PDEA, and setting aside other evidence presented in Senate investigations. 

Aguirre has yet to respond to a request for comment on how this affects the drug shipment investigation.

But in an earlier interview, the justice secretary said he could issue a new department order to assign the NBI to the drug smuggling case for a more proactive case buildup. – 

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.