By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra admitted that the shortage of prosecutors continues to be a headache at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“That’s our major problem, kulang ang mga prosecutors (there is a lack of prosecutors),” said Guevarra during the government’s recently concluded Tatak ng Pagbabago Tatak ng Katatagan pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) Forum last Wednesday.
The secretary explained that addressing the shortage of prosecutors will solve the need to expedite the resolution of criminal complaints currently undergoing preliminary investigation before the National Prosecution Service (NPS)
The dilemma has been repeatedly cited even during the time of Gueverra’s predecessor, former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
“We have submitted quite huge number of prosecutors for appointment so we are hoping that their appointments will come very soon,” Guevarra said about the list of applicants submitted for approval with Malacanang.
Adding the shortage of personnel, Guevarra believes the DOJ still needs “an improvement in the quality of the prosecutors whom we choose.”
“Therefore that means to say also improvement on the matter of selection and recruitment of prosecutors so that we get only the better ones,” he said.
The secretary pointed out that corruption is a problem that the DOJ continues to face.
“Corruption, sad to say, I have to admit na nandyan yan kasi may element of discretion (corruption is there because of the element of discretion),” he said.
“Our prosecutors engage in performing what we may call a quasi-judicial function so there’s an element of discretion and, whenever discretion is available, nandyan always yung temptation (there’s always temptation),” he explained.
As a solution to this, the DOJ chief believes there is a need to provide resources to prosecutors.
Though allowed by the law, Guevarra said there are places where prosecutors get support and allowances from local government units.
Because of this, he expressed concerns there are places where local government units exert influence over prosecutors.
“Somehow meron konting element ng baka ma-compromise yung independence of our prosecutors (There is an element that the independence of prosecutors could be compromised),” Guevarra said.
“So we would like to provide as much resources as possible to our prosecution service so that the need for the reliance partly from the local government units can be entirely eliminated and so that our prosecutors can work and do their jobs very independently,” he stated.