‘Without certainty of conviction,’ criminal cases in 1st level courts should be withdrawn – DOJ


Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors nationwide have been directed to review all criminal cases pending before the first level courts, like the municipal trial courts (MTCs), to determine if the cases “have reasonable certainty of conviction.”

If there is “no reasonable certainty of conviction,” the prosecutors have been ordered by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla to file the proper pleadings for the dismissal of the criminal charges.

Remulla’s directive was contained in DOJ Department Circular No. 008 dated Feb. 10, 2023. It is immediately executory.

Aside from the MTCs, the other first level courts in the country at the metropolitan trial courts (MeTCs), municipal trial court in citites (MTCCs), and municipal circuit trial courts (MCTCs).

First level courts have original jurisdiction over criminal cases with imprisonment of not more than six years, regardless of the fines or civil liability involved.

Remulla explained that the directive is in line with the efforts of the Judicial Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) to unclog and decongest court dockets.

The JSCC is composed of the Supreme Court (SC), the DOJ, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“Department Circular No. 008 of 2023 is based on the executive function of the Secretary,” DOJ Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Jose Dominic F. Clavano IV explained to reporters.

“His policy is to file only quality cases in court — cases that will yield convictions,” Clavano said.

He noted that prosecutors only have to determine probable cause before proceeding with the filing of cases in courts.

“The gap between ‘probable cause’ and ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ is too wide,” he said.

Thus, he also said, the “conviction rate suffers” and “congestion rate in jails balloons.”

He explained that there have been many instances where “persons are committed to jail and then eventually released after they are acquitted.”

“In other words, the resources of government are wasted when weak cases are filed,” he lamented.

“These problems, among others, can be solved by filing only cases with a reasonable certainty of conviction,” he stressed.

In the meantime, Clavano said moves are underway to amend Rule 112 on preliminary investigation in Rules of Court after “the Supreme Court has agreed to let DOJ take the lead.”

“It is also possible that Rule 112 will be completely removed from the Rules of Court to make it a purely executive function,” he noted.

“To reiterate, this one change will solve many of the problems in the Justice Sector,” he added.

TAGS: #DOJ #Sec. Remulla #Criminal cases in 1st level courts

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