The long-standing partnership between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) was reinforced with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and the HSF that extended the partnership for the current three-year project cycle until 2022.
As part of the project, “Dialogue between Prosecutors and Police Investigators from the Northern Mindanao Region,” the DOJ – HSF cooperation has, in partnership with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), carried out various in-person activities for the period 2017 to 2019. These included dialogues in the region and in Manila, and an information and exchange visit to Germany.
More than trading issues and concerns, the participants discussed suggestions to address these and come up with possible solutions they can work on together in order to foster better communication and understanding between and amongst different agencies and offices.
With this MoU in place, the two organisations seek to, together with the PNP, follow this project through, with an additional focus on top-level dialogues in Manila and, in time, an expansion nationwide. Additionally, the formal creation of an environment that fosters collaboration and communication between prosecution and law enforcement was identified as a way to build on the progress and help ensure continuity thereof. The inclusion of other government agencies in the justice sector in this formalisation process is being considered for the latter part of the project. The need to combine legislation and full cooperation of stakeholders for an even more efficient and effective engagement was underlined.
Since its launch in Cagayan de Oro City on September 05, 2017, a series of dialogue activities between police investigators from the Police Regional Office 10 and their counterpart prosecutors from the cities and provinces comprising Northern Mindanao have been conducted as part of the project. By 2019-year end, aside from the Top-Level Policy Dialogues held in Manila in 2018 and in 2019, twenty-five activities have been held with participants from the five provinces of the Northern Mindanao Region – Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte and Bukidnon.
Apart from prosecutors and police investigators, participants comprised other stakeholders such as other law enforcement agencies, security forces and government line agencies. These include representatives from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the PNP Women and Children’s Protection Desks, the Criminal Investigation and Detective Group (CIDG), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Police Regional Anti-Cybercrime Unit, the City Social Welfare Office (CSWO), representatives of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Office (PENRO) and the regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The dialogue activities are planned to be resumed in Manila, in the National Capital Region and in the Northern Mindanao Region by the second half of 2021. These activities can build on the best practices collected from the successful run of the project in the previous project cycle. Additionally, these dialogues can contribute to the gathering of insights and inputs for the further improvement of the communication and working relationship between prosecution and law enforcement towards the planned institutionalisation of a dialogue mechanism in the DOJ-NPS and the PNP, with which the HSF signed an MoU last year renewing their partnership until 2022.
In the prevailing pandemic situation, which started in March 2020, online interchanges organised by Northern Mindanao Region prosecutors and police investigators have successfully served to keep their communication channels open. Still, given how critical in a dialogue the elements of personal interaction and exchange are, the plan is to carry on holding in-person dialogue activities by the second half of 2021. This was said to be likely given how the government’s vaccination program has been gaining ground. The DOJ-NPS and the HSF both expressed appreciation for the further strengthening of their partnership and are set to meet to for a planning workshop to map out activities in 2021 and well into 2022.