Senate panel delays approval of DOJ budget for 2018

MANILA — A Senate panel on Thursday postponed the approval of the proposed budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) amounting to PHP17.276 billion.

This postponement came after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon requested for a second hearing to further discuss the preliminary report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on drug-related killings.

“We have to postpone the approval to have another hearing because he’s (Drilon) is waiting for the documents,” Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, said.

Legarda said that the NBI report will be given to the Committee on Finance and will be transmitted to Drilon’s office on or before the next hearing on August 31.

During the hearing, Drilon, a former Justice Secretary, asked Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to provide him with an update on drug-related killings. However, Aguirre said that it will take a few more days to provide him with a copy of the report.

After Drilon expressed the desire to hold the DOJ’s budget in abeyance until the data is provided, Aguirre assured that the report could be provided in 20 minutes.

When the report finally came, Drilon had already left to attend another Senate hearing.

NBI Director Dante Gierran said that it took some time to provide the information since the bureau wanted to be “accurate.”

Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo, for his part, revealed that approximately 3,050 were killed in legitimate police operations related the to drug war from July 1, 2016 to May 30, 2017. Of that number, over 1,000 are considered vigilante killings.

Orceo, however, said that the government is not taking the killings “lightly.”

Despite the postponement, Legarda assured that the DOJ budget would still be passed.

“I assure you that your budgets will be passed. They just have more questions,” Legarda told Aguirre.

In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Aguirre denied Drilon’s claim that there was “a deliberate attempt to be less than transparent.”

“There’s no truth to that. Why would we have to hide it?” Aguirre told reporters in Filipino. With Angela Coloma-OJT/PNA