On 13 July 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued Department Circular No. 27 (“Circular No. 27”), which modifies the appeal process for rulings of prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and creates a Prosecution Integrity Board to monitor, audit, and assess prosecutor conduct in preliminary investigations and appeals. The department circular takes effect on 31 July 2022.
In more detail
Circular No. 27 modifies the appeal process (via a Petition for Review) for rulings of prosecutors in preliminary investigations as follows:
1. A Petition for Review should be filed with the Office of the Secretary of Justice if the preliminary investigation:
- Involves an offense that falls within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court (i.e., those punished with imprisonment exceeding six years), or
- Was initiated upon a referral by government agencies (i.e., the National Bureau of Investigation or the Philippine National Police) to the prosecutor general
2. A Petition for Review should be filed with the prosecutor general if the preliminary investigation involves an offense that falls within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts in the National Capital Region (NCR) (i.e., those punished with imprisonment of six years and below).
3. A Petition for Review should be filed with the proper regional state prosecutor if the preliminary investigation involves an offense that falls within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan/Municipal/Municipal Circuit Trial Courts or Municipal Trial Court in cities outside NCR.
4. The resolutions of the prosecutor general and the regional state prosecutors in the above cases are not appealable to the secretary of justice.
5. However, the secretary of justice has a “residual power of review” over any resolution by the prosecutor general, regional state prosecutors, and city/provincial prosecutors. This residual power to review may be exercised by the secretary of justice “to afford fair play and prevent miscarriage of justice,” and can be done motu proprio or “upon written and signed complaint” by a litigant. The DOJ will issue a separate circular on this matter.
Circular No. 27 also created a Prosecution Integrity Board that serves to audit and monitor the performance of the prosecutor general, regional state prosecutors, and city/provincial prosecutors in the conduct of preliminary investigations and appeals. The DOJ will also issue a separate circular for this matter.
Why DOJ Circular No. 27 is relevant to you
Timely action by the DOJ on appeals in preliminary investigation proceedings minimizes situations where an appeal is rendered moot upon the filing of formal charges in court. Under existing rules, the accused in a criminal case may ask the court for a 60-day suspension of arraignment if an appeal is filed with the DOJ — the idea being that the court can consider the DOJ’s resolution of the appeal in deciding whether to continue with trial or simply dismiss the case. However, if the appeal is not resolved within that 60-day period, the court can simply proceed with the arraignment of the accused and go through a full-blown trial, thereby rendering the appeal moot before the DOJ.
With the modifications introduced to the appeal process for preliminary investigations, litigants can expect pending and future appeals to be acted upon by the DOJ in a swifter, more efficient manner.