Provision of legal assistance to uniformed personnel covered by PAO-Guevarra

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra has assured that the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PAO) will continue to provide legal assistance to uniformed personnel, even as the President seeks passage of a bill that would provide legal assistance. legal assistance to soldiers and police.

The Chief Justice noted that there is already a standing directive to the PAO to provide free legal assistance to members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who may be subject to charges. prosecution due to the nature of their duties. .

“The GM [Department of Justice] has a standing directive to the PAO to extend legal assistance to police officers [up to the level of Special Police Officer 4] and other uniformed personnel who may be prosecuted in the performance of their official duties. The PAO has existing memorandum circulars to its public attorneys regarding this matter,” Guevarra said.

He, however, pointed out that “the provision of free legal assistance is, however, subject to the PAO’s assessment of the case, including a determination of conflict of interest, such as where the opposing party has also requested legal assistance. at the PAO”.

In his last annual address to Congress, President Duterte called for the passage of a bill that would provide free legal aid to the military and police.

In addition to the assistance provided by the PAO, the DOJ secretary said that the PNP and AFP may also have their own special funds in case their staff face legal action.

“Perhaps an increased budget allocation for this purpose will be sufficient, assuming existing funds are insufficient,” he said.

The DOJ chief also said that while there may be police and military personnel who are under investigation by the Drug War Review Committee and the Administrative Order 35 Committee for allegedly being involved in incidents of extrajudicial murder, these law enforcement agencies still have the right to defend themselves against their accusers, just like others.

“It’s simply about providing law enforcement officers with the means to defend themselves in court for acts committed in connection with their official duties, such as fighting terrorists and criminals. Unless proven guilty, they are presumed innocent. Like all of us, they are also entitled to due process,” Guevarra explained.

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