This article may be a little outdated since the new administration has taken measures to stop the following practices haunting its walls. It is now making steps to diminish them one by one. These acts may seem to have temporarily stopped as of present. Nonetheless, it is never too late to disclose them so that everyone may know if ever they shall be repeated in the future. The following facts are not absolutely accurate but somehow these are the ways they are being executed.
Extortion starts from the time the case is being investigated. A field investigator who may be a lawyer or law graduate is given a lead as to irregularities observed inside a public office. He may also be given leads as to malpractices of certain public officials. The information usually comes from a concerned citizen such as an NGO, a government agency, or a political opponent. When the case is assigned to him, the investigator should conduct his investigation discreetly. He should cover all aspects and angles of the official’s activities relative to the complained acts. The investigator should not maintain any contact with the official being investigated. However, what often takes place is the contrary. The investigator himself schedules a meeting with the public official outside regular office hours, and demands money from him in exchange for discontinuing his investigation. In most cases, the investigator does not work alone. His action has the blessing of his immediate superior and the division head who also partake of the loot.
Sometimes, the worst may also happen to an innocent official who catches the ire of this investigator/extortionist. The investigator will mislead the official into believing that he is being investigated (although he is not) and then he will ask for money. The official who may or may not have involved himself (in the past) in illegal activities often gives in to the demands of the extortionist in order not to be bothered again.
Meanwhile, let us say that the investigator is a good guy and he conducts his investigation cleanly, the case will then be elevated to the adjudication office for preliminary investigation. A lawyer/ investigating prosecutor shall resolve the case based on the evidence submitted by the investigator, and the counter-affidavits and other papers submitted by the public official/respondent. The quantum of evidence needed for a criminal indictment is probable cause, while substantial evidence is only needed for the official’s administrative dismissal or suspension from office. The prosecutor may convict the official on both cases.
At this point, the investigating prosecutor may summon the respondent official, or the official, on the other hand, may look for “padrinos” within the office to befriend the prosecutor.
The investigating prosecutor in selling his decision will come up with the following ends in resolving the case:
1) He will completely dismiss the complaint against the official if he finds that the same is without merit. This is the easiest thing to do because even if the prosecutor is investigated, he can prove that his decision is proper and meritorious. But he will not tell the respondent official that the case against him is dismissible. This is so that he can ask from him money.
2) If the case really has merits and the evidence warrants the finding of probable cause or in administrative cases, dismissal, the investigating prosecutor shall either do the following:
a) Resolve the case after three years, in administrative cases, so that the official concerned, if elected, has won another mandate from the people;
b) Resolve the case longer than five years, in criminal and administrative cases, so that the official can already avail himself of the defense of inordinate delay;
c) Resolve vaguely the case so that it will be hard for the trial prosecutor to litigate the case, or botch the Information filed in court so that it will be easy for the accused official to question the Information by filing a motion to quash; or
d) Conceal or destroy the evidence submitted by the investigator so nothing can be presented in court during trial.
Another venue for money making is during the famous “Motion for Reconsideration” (MR) stage. During this phase, the public official already knew that his case is up for filing in court, or that he is already up for dismissal or suspension, if not for the timely filing of his Motion for Reconsideration. After the filing of this pleading, negotiation starts. If the official is the weakest link in the group charged for conspiracy, his case can easily be dismissed during MR (with the right price). If the penalty in an administrative case is dismissal, it can be reduced to suspension. During MR, a criminal indictment for a higher offense may be lowered. This will open the opportunity for the accused to plea bargain during trial.
The last venue is the prosecution stage. This is the phase where the Information was already filed in court and the concerned lawyer handling the case is the litigating prosecutor. The prosecutor may bungle the case in favor of the accused in the following manner:
1) He will omit presenting to the court the vital evidence to convict the accused;
2) He will conceal or destroy evidence in his custody;
3) He will not summon important witnesses to testify in the case; or
4) He will loosely defend his position, so the case can easily be dismissed via motion to quash or demurrer to evidence.
The litigating prosecutor is the sole judge as to whether the case against the accused is strong or weak. If he believes it to be weak, then he can entertain the prodding for a plea bargain. Corruption comes in when he sells this discretion to the accused. However, this is not totally without control since approval concerning plea bargain is with the Head of Office of the litigating prosecutor. In all cases, the judge of the case may notice this ill-practices and may call the attention of the prosecutor or report them to the Head of Office.
Above facts may not be true in all cases. What is important is that they happened, or may have the probability to happen again in the future.