AS I have said last Sunday, now is the time for Congress to restore the subpoena powers of the director of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group given the clear and present danger being posed by drug lords, terrorists and other moneyed and influential crime lords and even corrupt public officials to the national security.
This is also the reason why former PNP chief-turned-Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson, a security expert whose credibility is beyond reproach is espousing the return of the CIDG director’s subpoena power which will enable the latter to always ask a judge to cite for contempt and send to jail any ‘person of interest’ who refuses to heed their subpoena.
Sen. Lacson hit the nail right on the head when he said that “it seems absurd that the CIU, now more known as the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, with a mandate to undertake monitoring, investigation and prosecution of all crimes involving economic sabotage and other crimes of such magnitude and extent as to indicate their commission by highly-placed or professional criminal syndicates and organizations, has lost its subpoena powers.”
“ Kung wala pong subpoena powers, lagi pong kulang at bitin and imbestigasyon, Mr. President, he said in referring to Senate President Koko Pimentel. “Sayang naman po ang resources ng ating gobyerno. On a final note, Mr. President, kung ang top investigative unit po ng ating bansa ay walang subpoena powers, maitutulad po natin ito sa isang auto na walang gasolina - walang mararating,” the senator said.
A friend from the CIDG, lawyer-Senior Superintendent Wilson Asueta has fully explained to me their exact position regarding the CIDG subpoena power saying their request to be granted the authority to issue administrative subpoena is purely for the interest of justice.’ Just like his boss, Chief Supt. Roel Obusan, also a lawyer from PMA Class 1986, Asueta explained that administrative subpoenas are a well-established investigative tool, currently available in a wide range of criminal and civil investigations by numerous agencies but not available to the PNP-CIDG.
“Our statutes allowed agencies with the power to issue administrative subpoena and subpoena duces tecum such as the NBI, PDEA, NAPOLCOM, BIR, as well as the Cybercrime Operation Center of Cybercrime Investigation Coordination Center. Our major function is very similar to the function of the NBI and PDEA,” Asueta said.
According to the official, the PDEA, by virtue of Sec. 84 of RA 9165, has the power to administer oath and issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum relative to investigations involving violations of the anti-drug law. On the other hand, RA 157 which created the NBI, also provided for subpoena powers to its agents/peace officers.
Among the NBI powers, as provided under Section 5 of RA 157, are as follows: (b) To issue subpoena or subpoena duces tecum for the appearance at Government expense of any person for investigation; (c) To take and require sworn truthful statements of any person or persons so summoned in relation to cases under investigation, subject to constitutional restrictions; and (d) To administer oaths upon cases under investigation.
Asueta said that the PNP, through CIDG, is the investigating arm of the Anti-Terrorism Council. “Where terrorist incidents are concerned, prevention is key and time is critical. Even a brief delay in an investigation could be disastrous. Therefore, these officers need tools that allow them to obtain information and act as quickly as possible. Administrative subpoenas are one tool that will enable investigators to avoid costly delays,” he said.
The PNP-CIDG, being the primary investigative arm of the PNP at present handles a wide range of criminal investigations, yet incredibly enough, where speed is often of the essence, it lacks the express authority to use administrative subpoenas, I would say.
Records showed that the CIDG achieved 98.91 percent case clearance efficiency and(†70.38 percent case solution efficiency in 2015.(†However, it is a wide belief that the CIDG could have solved more cases, produced fool-proof cases if only it had the means to obtain more information and to gather more evidence. Without the power to subpoena or subpoena duces tecum, it simply cannot access records or obtain testimony that would further its investigations.
Ever since it launched a nationwide campaign against illegal drugs, the CIDG has assumed an increasingly significant role in investigations, particularly on the top personalities allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, as announced by President Duterte last August, I was told.
“We have a wider reach in communities nationwide. Subpoenas, which will enable us to obtain information and certain records quickly, are critical to many of our investigations; Without the power necessary to conduct a comprehensive investigation, we could not make a significant impact in our campaign to combat crimes,” Asueta said.
“Especially now that we have embarked on narco-related financial investigations, information gathering, timely collection and assessment of evidence are of the essence,” he added. Other benefits/advantages they see in granting the subpoena power to the CIDG are the following: Refusal to obey a subpoena duly served may be a basis for police authorities to file a complaint for indirect contempt against a subject of investigation;
It will save the police a lot of time and at the same time obtain more valuable information by compelling subjects of investigation to appear; police could gather information held by third parties, other than the target or the subject of an investigation; and Subpoena offers the easiest way to obtain information, and initially, it is considered less intrusive than search warrants because materials are gathered and delivered by the individual rather than seized.
This is what we exactly need this time particularly when the PNP headed by General ‘Bato’ de la Rosa is trying very hard to prevent drug lords and other moneyed crime gang leaders from using their money to buy freedom or privileges while in jail. This subpoena power can be used in going after the likes of Kerwin Espinosa or casino magnate Jack Lam or even government officials accused of involvement in extortion or other fraudulent activities.