Congress has authority to clip DOJ chief's powers – Escudero
MANILA, Philippines – Congress has the authority to clip the powers of the Department of Justice to 'insulate' it from politics.
Senator Francis Escudero said this on Thursday, June 19, following Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s opposition to calls to limit his office's authority.
Asked about possible constitutional questions, Escudero said the Senate and the House of Representatives are allowed to reorganize the government.
“Wala, kasi may kapangyarihan ang Kongreso na mag-reorganize ng pamahalaan. May kapangyarihan ang Kongreso na magtatag ng mga opisina o departamento base sa kanyang ninanais gawin,” Escudero said in a press conference.
(Nothing [unconstitutional] because the Congress has the power to reorganize government. Congress has the power to establish offices or departments based on what it wants to accomplish.)
Earlier, Senate justice committee chair Richard Gordon said was studying the possibility of enacting a law that would strip the justice secretary of the power to review cases and transfer the authority to a retired justice of the Supreme Court.
This came after the DOJ downgraded the criminal charges against policemen involved in the killing of the late Albuera town mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr inside jail, despite glaring evidence it was premeditated murder.
Aguirre earlier slammed the proposal as “unconstitutional,” saying executive powers could not be diminished.
"I believe that it is unconstitutional. You could not diminish the power of the President as the Chief Executive. One must remember that as the alter ego of the President, I am merely acting for and in his behalf," Aguirre said in a text message.
Escudero, for his part, is set to refile the measure that would “insulate” the country’s justice system from politics. But instead of transferring the duty to a retired SC justice, he wants the creation of the Office of the Prosecutor General.
“Pero noong nakaraan ay may nai-file kaming bill na ang sinasabi ay ito: “Ang pagre-review ng kaso, ang pagsampa ng kaso, dapat ilagay na sa isang opisinang tinatawag nating Office of the Prosecutor General na uupo para sa fixed term para insulated siya sa pulitika,” Escudero said.
(Last Congress we filed a bill saying review or filing of cases should be transferred to the Office of the Prosecutor General, who will sit for a fixed term to be insulated from politics.)
“Ang intensyon ng panukalang batas na iyon ay tanggalan ng bahid o kulay pulitika iyong pagpa-file ng kaso iyong justice system natin na hindi dapat nakadepende sa nagkataong nakaupong DOJ secretary o sa nagkataong nakaupong pangulo. Tulad ng nakita natin sa mga nagdaang mga administrasyon, ang nakakasuhan ang kalaban ng administrasyon. Hindi nakakasuhan ang kakampi ng administrasyon,” he added.
(The intention of that bill is to remove politics from the justice system so it does not depend on the sitting DOJ secretary or president. Like what we witnessed in the past administrations when the enemies are being charged.)
Escudero recalled during the time of former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III, their justice chiefs – the late DOJ secretary Raul Gonzalez and now Senator Leila Lima – echoed the voices of their principals. – Rappler.com