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Remulla orders creation of special task force to handle 23 political killings in Negros Oriental

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has ordered the creation of a special task force which will handle the 23 cases of political killings in Negros Oriental, including that of slain Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.

This was disclosed by Justice Undersecretary Jesse Hermogenes Andres a day after the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs formally requested the DOJ to create a special panel of prosecutors as the senators noticed that the cases of political killings in the province remain unsolved.

“The Secretary of Justice has already directed us to do so and to create a task force that will handle all these political killings. All in all, there are 23 cases,” Andres said during the continuation of the Senate probe into Degamo’s killing.

“We will make sure  that there will be no miscrriage of justice,” he added.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, chairman of the panel, thanked Remulla for acceding the panel’s request.

For the convenience of the witnesses and the complainants, Andres said the task force hearings can be held either in Cebu or in Manila, depending on the request of the witnesses.

“But we will provide a venue in Cebu, which is still within Region VII, in accordance with our rules in the DOJ where there are cases that cannot be handled directly by the provincial prosecution office which has jurisdiction, it can be transferred to the nearest, original prosecution office within the region for their own convenience,” he explained.

Further, Andres said several witnesses who appeared before the Senate panel were already assisted by the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).

“We were able to talk to at least three of them already and the WPP director is already discussing the procedures for their formal admission into the program so that they can be properly given assistance and the security protection,” Andres said.

The DOJ official said the task force might be composed of five prosecutors who will “continue to see the prosecution of these cases up to its logical conclusion, not only with respect with the preliminary investigation, but even to the conduct of the trial proper for all of these cases.”

“This is our insight where we cannot allow the cases to be transferred to people who do not have any idea of the case build up. We want those who are part of the case build up to actively prosecute and participate in the conduct of the trial,” he said.

To ensure the sustainability and the existence of the task force, Senator Francis Tolentino said he will propose a separate appropriation for the task force once the 2024 national budget is discussed in the Senate. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News