Press Release
April 6, 2018

Guevarra inherits a DOJ grappling with manpower, equipment lack

Newly-appointed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra should be given the "men and material" the Department of Justice needs as the "changing of the guards alone will not automatically lead" to improvements in an agency that is an important pillar of the justice system.

This was pointed out by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who said that the DOJ "is hobbled by across-the-board shortages in personnel and equipment."

"While the nation's focus is on him, the Justice Secretary is not the justice system. The latter consists of men and women who assist pauper litigants, represent the people in courts, guard our prisons, sit in parole boards, and run after big organized crime," Recto said.

Recto said Guevarra's first order of business is to fill vacancies in key DOJ agencies and ask his former office, Malacañang, to propose higher funding for new equipment and buildings.

"For example, there are 1,657 vacant prosecutorial posts. The problem is that there are no takers because of the low pay for the hard labor, and the only bonus one gets is 'unli' death threats."

As a result, one prosecutor handles about 403 criminal cases, Recto said. "Daily, the prosecutor attends three court hearings, in addition to preliminary investigations, retrials, witness deposition, mediation, among others."

There is also a shortage of public attorneys. At present, one Public Attorney Office (PAO) lawyer handles 5,237 clients a year, and, at any given time, has 504 cases in court.

"All of them lack computers. They need paralegals to back them up. Comfortable offices are a rarity. And when it comes to preparing briefs, it is buy-your-own-supplies," Recto lamented.

Another DOJ-run agency, Bureau of Corrections, is suffering from prisoner congestion.

Two years ago, its 8 prisons were already 151 percent overcapacity, Recto said. "In 2016, New Bilibid Prisons reported a congestion rate of 181 percent with 23,749 prisoners staying in the old facility designed to house 8,460.

Recto blamed slow case disposition for the congestion of prisons, which turn them into "corporate headquarters of crime syndicates and as graduate schools for their members."

Recto said solving DOJ's woes "requires tripartite collaboration" by the three branches. "Congress should fund the improvements. The Judiciary should address the slow disposition of cases," Recto said.

"If we want to bolster the rule of law - which is now being threatened by people and institutions tempted to embrace illegal means in seeking justice - then the first step is to provide the resources needed," he said.

"Budget delayed is justice denied," Recto said.

The DOJ has a budget of P18.4 billion this year, P1.35 billion of which is for capital outlay.

News Latest News Feed