As the days pass, important electronic evidence in the form of text messages, e-mails, videos, and photographs may be lost, deleted or altered. Witnesses may also be harder to locate and interview.
Various government agencies are conducting separate investigations of the incident. These include the Department of Justice, which recently created a Special Investigation Team composed of members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and National Prosecution Service (NPS) to probe the matter; the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), through the PNP Board of Inquiry; the Commission on Human Rights (CHR); and several committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Parallel but separate investigations by government agencies, each with their own interests to protect, have in the past resulted in contradictory findings and recommendations and in agencies blaming one another.
If this happens here, who will the public believe? And how will the public know the truth? (READ: Timeline Mamasapano clash)
Government must not allow this to happen.
Government must act now to preserve the physical and electronic evidence, protect the witnesses, document their accounts, reconstruct what happened, and evaluate the evidence gathered. This can best be done by an independent panel of experts in forensics, international humanitarian law, and military and police operations, appointed by the Senate. The experts must be well respected in their fields of specialization, and of known probity and integrity.
The appointment of an independent panel of experts will not require legislation.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has engaged experts in the past, to assist in investigating controversial events like the coconut levy and PIATCO cases. The Rules of the Blue Ribbon Committee, in fact, authorize the Chair of the Committee to “engage the services of consultants to assist the Committee under such terms and conditions and with such authority and duties as he may determine.” [Section 3, Article 2, Rules of the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon)]
The appointment of an independent panel of experts will also depoliticize the investigation and prevent legislators from using it to grandstand for the coming elections.
Time is running out. Whatever evidence remains at the crime scene and other vital evidence must be preserved. Witnesses should be provided with protection and their stories should be documented.
And the process must be removed from politics by appointing a panel of experts with the knowledge, expertise, and integrity to conduct a thorough, independent, and objective investigation of the Mamasapano operation. – Rappler.com
A human rights lawyer, the author is the Dean of the College Law of De La Salle University.