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DOJ orders withdrawal of cases with no certainty of conviction from first-level courts

The Department of Justice has ordered its prosecutors to recommend the withdrawal of pending criminal cases in first-level courts that have no probable cause with reasonable certainty of conviction.

Under Department Circular No. 016, the DOJ directed prosecutors to review and identify cases that have had no considerable movement in over three months, where complainants or witnesses have repeatedly failed to appear without a valid reason, or where material evidence is not available or could no longer be produced.

According to the DOJ, the guidelines cover all pending criminal cases in first-level courts, municipal trial courts (MTCs), municipal trial courts in cities (MTCCs), and metropolitan trial courts (MeTCs).

The DOJ mandated the prosecutors to communicate and inform complainants of the possible dismissal of their case, ascertain whether the complainant is still interested in pursuing the case, and direct the complainant to submit the evidence needed at the next hearing.

Prosecutors were also directed to examine whether the evidence on hand of the case can meet the threshold of reasonable certainty of conviction for cases falling under the Rules on Summary Procedure.

“Once the trial prosecutor has performed his/her duties… and it appears that the identified cases lack reasonable certainty of conviction, he/she shall forthwith make a report with the inventory of said cases and recommendation to move for withdrawal or dismissal thereof,” it said.

The DOJ said there is reasonable certainty of conviction when a prima facie case exists based on evidence at hand including witnesses, documentary evidence, and real evidence.

Upon receipt of the recommendation, city or provincial prosecutors must also evaluate and validate the case within 10 days. Afterward, they are directed to prepare a written motion to withdraw the information or a motion to dismiss within three days.

“Consistent with the objectives of the DC Nos. 008 and 008-A, no case shall henceforth be filed with MTCs, MTCCs, and MeTCs if there is no reasonable certainty of conviction for the same,” it said.

In a separate statement, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said only strong cases should be filed in court.

“Huwag nating hayaang gamitin ang kagawaran para mang-api ng ibang tao. Ang mga mahihirap ang nabibiktima dito sa mga sinasampahang mahihinang kaso para lang panakot,” he said.

“Kailangan nating itaas ang antas ng ebidensya sa prosecutor para wala nang makulong ng basta-basta,” he added. —NB, GMA Integrated News