MANILA, Philippines – A high-ranking Palace official clarified that there is no need for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Ombudsman to get President Rodrigo Duterte's approval to probe police and soldiers suspected of wrongdoing.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Monday, July 31, that Duterte respects the independence of these two offices, tasked by the 1987 Constitution to investigate human rights violations and crimes by government personnel, respectively.
"The Office of the Ombudsman, CHR, can do what they need to do so no need to get the President's permission to do so formally," said Guevarra during a press briefing in Malacañang.
Guevarra was asked to clarify what Duterte meant when he said on July 24 that the CHR and Ombudsman must go through him first before investigating police or soldiers.
"Kaya kapag kinwestiyon mo sila for investigation, dumaan muna sa akin (If you question them for investigation, you better go through me first)," said Duterte then.
Guevarra, himself a lawyer, said the President only meant that he wanted the two agencies to inform him if they were going to investigate police and soldiers. After all, Duterte is also the commander-in-chief of the country's security forces.
"I presume he was speaking as commander-in-chief and not as chief executive. In other words, it's just a matter of saying [that] since, as commander-in-chief, since you will be investigating a law enforcer, a policeman, or a soldier, it will be a lot better if you let me know about this investigation," Guevarra said.
Duterte, as a lawyer and former prosecutor, is well-versed in criminal procedure and "knows the limits of what he can do and what he can't," added Guevarra.
But aside from telling the CHR and Ombudsman to inform him of the probes, Duterte had also verbally instructed cops and soldiers to not allow themselves to be investigated by the agencies.
"Kapag sinabi ko na huwag kayo magpa-imbestiga, huwag kayo papa-imbestiga (If I say don't allow yourselves to be investigated, don't allow yourself to be investigated)," the President had said.
Asked if Duterte can stop police and soldiers from participating in a probe, Guevarra said, "Technically he can do that but I don't think he will."
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has said Duterte cannot interfere in investigations being conducted by her office.
She maintained there is no law that requires police or soldiers to seek clearance from anyone before filing pleadings in response to complaints. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.