In the Philippines, public prosecutors are charged with investigating and prosecuting criminal acts. This mandate often entails uniquely difficult ethical dilemmas, which include conflict-of-interest issues, the acceptance of gifts, partiality, handling confidential information and the general abuse of the powers.
From June 8–9, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), in partnership with the Department of Justice of the Philippines, conducted a training on the newly developed Code of Conduct for the National Prosecution Service in Cebu City. Sixty-eight regional state prosecutors from Visayas and Western Mindanao attended the training—the first in a series of four.
In his welcoming remarks, Prosecutor General Claro Arellano emphasized the timeliness of the code of conduct, which would complement Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s anti-corruption efforts. Arellano said that the primary ethical principle that should guide all prosecutors is “adhering to the straight path—daang tuwid.”
To enhance the prosecutors’ understanding of right and wrong behaviors, the training employs interactive techniques and real-life case studies. Regional, city and state prosecutors who served in the technical group that developed the curriculum also spoke at the training. During the first session, Regional Prosecutor Mary May de Leoz discussed the salient features of the code, such as core values of public prosecutors, professional responsibility, fairness, dignity, impartiality and integrity, and commitment to the rule of law.
ABA ROLI Senior Rule of Law Adviser Anthony Valcke gave examples of international corruption cases in the United States and Europe. Presentations included case studies of grave misconduct by public prosecutors and government attorneys to illustrate the potentially severe implications that professional misconduct can have on public trust. The training also highlighted various investigation techniques, such as integrity tests and covert operations. ABA ROLI Legal Specialist Dawn McClary provided insights on the newly created Internal Affairs Unit of the Department of Justice, discussing its organizational structure as well as the operations of its counterpart in the United States.
Results from surveys conducted before and after the training showed significant improvements in the participants’ understanding of various ethical issues and appropriate actions. Speaking on behalf of training participants, Virgilio Garcia of the Iloilo Regional Prosecutor’s Office said that the real cases discussed encouraged active participation by trainees. He added that the training allowed him to “see the need to increase our ethical conduct and level of service to give dignity to the Department to which we have dedicated so many years of our lives.”
The training was supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].