Melo Commission Report: Recommendations

Feb. 23, 2007

C. Prosecution

To ensure that those responsible for the extrajudicial execution of activists and media people are brought to justice and that the prosecution is handled with efficiency and dispatch, the Department of Justice (DOJ) must create a special team of competent and well-trained prosecutors to handle the trial of said cases. Also, the DOJ should request the Supreme Court to designate special courts to hear and try said cases and to require the courts so designated to give the highest priority to them, conduct daily hearings, and resolve them within six (6) months.

With respect to pending cases the prosecution of which has not been moving for lack of judges or because of the fault or negligence of the public prosecutor, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor should make representations with the Office of the Court Administrator to detail judges to the vacant salas, or to designate special prosecutors to take over the prosecution, as the case may be.

As regards killings in areas where witnesses are afraid to testify because of fear of reprisal, steps should be taken to transfer the venue to Manila.

D. Protection of witnesses

As part of the need to ensure the successful prosecution of those responsible for extrajudicial killings, the present Witness Protection Program created under Republic Act. No. 6981 should be enhanced and made more effective so as to guarantee the safety of witnesses to the killings. The existing program is suffering from lack of funds and necessary manpower. The Government must give the highest priority to the improvement, strengthening, and funding of said program, preferably patterned after the U.S. federal witness protection program.[101]

The program should also be made available to persons who have received death threats or who are otherwise in danger of extralegal, arbitrary or summary execution.

E. Special law for strict chain-of-command responsibility

The President should propose legislation to require police and military forces and other government officials to maintain strict chain-of-command responsibility with respect to extrajudicial killings and other offenses committed by personnel under their command, control or authority. Such legislation must deal specifically with extralegal, arbitrary, and summary executions and forced disappearances and provide appropriate penalties which take into account the gravity of the offense. It should penalize a superior government official, military or otherwise, who encourages, incites, tolerates or ignores, any extrajudicial killing committed by a subordinate. The failure of such a government official to prevent an extrajudicial killing if he had a reasonable opportunity to do so, or his failure to investigate and punish his subordinate, or to otherwise take appropriate action to deter or prevent its commission or punish his erring subordinate should be criminalized. Even general information e.g., media reports which would place the superior on notice of possible unlawful acts by his subordinate should be sufficient to hold him criminally liable if he failed to investigate and punish his subordinate.

There should be no requirement that a causal relationship be established between a superiors failure to act and the subordinates crime; his liability under the doctrine of command responsibility should be based on his omission to prevent the commission of the offense or to punish the perpetrator.

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