MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon requested Thursday that the chamber defer approval of the Department of Justice’s proposed 2018 budget after Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II failed to give an accurate report on the number of drug-related deaths since last year.
The DOJ, the first agency to undergo budget hearings at the Senate, is asking for P17 billion next year.
Aguirre could not give a definite response when Drilon asked him how many cases the National Bureau of Investigation has resolved in compliance with Department Order No. 120, which orders the agency to “conduct a thorough investigation of reported killings allegedly related to the campaign against illegal drugs.”
As Drilon pressed on with his questions, Aguirre eventually said he had issued a memorandum in July seeking data from provincial, regional and city prosecutors on drug-related killings but that he had received nothing since.
He also asked for 10 days to submit the data Drilon asked for even as he denied that the DOJ was concealing data on the drug killings, saying they only want to be accurate with the numbers they release.
Noting that all he was asking for was the data gathered under the DOJ issuances, Drilon then asked that approval of the DOJ budget be held for 10 days or until Aguirre could submit the need data.
To Drilon’s surprise, Aguirre asked for only 20 minutes to allow the NBI to submit the information and, after a while, reported 3,050 deaths from legitimate police anti-drug operations and more than a thousand vigilante killings.
The NBI said it had probed only 37 of these killings under Department Order No. 120, with three recommended for prosecution and three more near closure.
This prompted Drilon to describe the DOJ’s performance as “dismal.”
Aguirre tried to explain that the NBI did not really have the authority to investigate these cases and that he had to grant it additional powers under Department Order No. 120.
But Drilon said he was disappointed with Aguirre’s failure to present complete data on the killings and that he is convinced the DOJ is keeping data on extrajudicial killing from the public.
The DOJ also discussed its recently created interagency program to investigate extrajudicial killings aside from drug-related deaths, only to disappoint Drilon further when, asked how many cases had been elevated as EJKs in the last four months, the response was none.
The Senate deliberation on the department’s budget will continue on August 31, during which Aguirre is expected to submit the data demanded by Drilon.
Senator Loren Legarda, the finance committee chair, assured that the DOJ budget would be passed as long as it satisfactorily answers senators’ questions.
Click and watch the video report below: