What is NBI? A Brief Overview of the National Bureau of Investigation

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The National Bureau of Investigation (Pambansang Kawanihan ng Pagsisiyasat, abbreviated as NBI) is an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Justice, responsible for handling and solving major high-profile cases that are in the interest of the nation. 

The NBI was modeled after the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when it was being established. Read on to know more.. 

History of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 

José Yulo and Manuel L. Quezon, the forefathers of the National Bureau of Investigation, on a 2011 stamp of the Philippines. The Division of Investigation, later renamed the National Bureau of Investigation, came into existence on June 19, 1947, the date Republic Act 157 was approved. 

Its history goes back to November 13, 1936, when a Division of Investigation (DI) under the Department of Justice was created with the enactment of Commonwealth Act No. 181 by the First National Assembly. Section 1, C.A. No. 181 provides:

A Division of Investigation under the Department of Justice is hereby created. It shall be composed of such personnel as may be necessary, in the discretion of the Secretary of Justice, and its duties shall be to help in the detection and prosecution of crimes; to acquire, collect, classify and preserve criminal identification records; and to obtain information on all matters affecting the public interest. I apologize for the misunderstanding. 

To gain a better understanding of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which oversees the NBI, we have a comprehensive overview available. You can explore it here What is DOJ? A Comprehensive Overview to the Department of Justice

The DI was the brainchild of Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon and the then–Secretary of Justice José Yulo. A veteran American police officer, Capt. Thomas Duggan of the New York Police Department (NYPD), and the only Filipino member of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Flaviano Guerrero, were hired by the Philippine government to organize the Division of Investigation of the Department of Justice.

The formation of the DI generated considerable public interest, and more than 3,000 applied for the initial 48 positions of NBI Agents. Physical and medical examinations were conducted by doctors from the Philippine General Hospital and San Lazaro Hospital. 

Of the 3,000 applicants, only 150 were allowed to take the mental test, and of this number, less than 100 passed. After further screening, 48 were certified for employment, and of these successful candidates, only 45 actually accepted appointments as Agents.

The DI was then formally organized in 1937 and was composed of forty-five (45) Agents and approximately 100 officials and employees. 

These included lawyers, doctors, chemists, fingerprint technicians, photographers, research assistants, clerks, stenographers, janitors, and messengers. 

The DI office operated in Manila, where its Agents and technical personnel were dispatched to the provinces from time to time to investigate crimes of public interest or when the necessity arose.

The DI operation was suspended upon the surrender of the Commonwealth Government to the occupying Japanese forces during World War II. 

The Japanese, however, revived the DI and allowed it to function as a division under the Department of Justice until the establishment of the Japanese puppet Philippine Republic of President José P. Laurel. 

During the Laurel administration, the DI was merged with the Secret Service Division of the Metropolitan Constabulary (Manila Police Department or MPD) and the Intelligence Unit of the Japanese-run Philippine Constabulary.

Upon the liberation of the Philippines by combined Filipino and American forces in 1945, the DI was not immediately reorganized since most of its original members were seconded in the service of the United States Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC). 

After the surrender of Japan in August 1945, the DI was reactivated, and the original members were called back to the service. 

The reactivated DI started with no records or equipment, most of which had been systematically destroyed by DI personnel for security reasons to prevent classified documents and equipment from falling into the hands of the Japanese.

In 1947, as the Philippines struggled to recover from the ravages of war, criminality in all its forms increased dramatically, straining the meager resources of the newly reorganized police service in effectively combating sophisticated organized crime groups and the solution of complex crimes. 

Due to the increase of lawlessness in the land, DI personnel agitated for the conversion of the Division of Investigation into a bureau, believing that an enlarged, highly professional, and better-equipped bureau similar to that of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation was needed to effectively fight organized crime groups and solve crimes of a complex nature.

In response, Congress filed House Bill No. 1162, from which Republic Act No. 157 originated. R.A. 157 was approved by Congress and enacted into law on June 19, 1947, which renamed DI to the Bureau of Investigation (BI). 

On October 4, 1947, R.A. 157 was amended by Executive Order No. 94 to change the name from BI to the National Bureau of Investigation.

On June 12, 2023, Medardo de Lemos’ term as NBI Director was extended.

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The NBI is mandated to investigate/take on the following cases:

  • Extrajudicial/extra-legal killings by state security forces against media practitioners/activists.
  • Murders of justices and judges.
  • Violations of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175).
  • Cases from the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council.
  • Anti-Dummy Law cases.
  • Human trafficking cases in all Philippine airports.
  • Cases involving threats to security or assaults against the persons of the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • Transnational crimes based on international agreements.
  • Identification of victims of natural disasters.

Violations of:

  •   the E-Commerce Act of 2000 (Republic Ac No. 8792);
  •   the Access Devices Regulations Act of 1998 (Republic Act No. 8484);
  •   the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines (Republic Act No. 8293);
  •   the Securities Regulation Code (Republic Act No. 8799);
  •   the Decree Increasing the Penalty for Certain Forms of Estafa (Presidential Decree No. 1689).

Organizational Structure

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is a line agency under the Department of Justice and serves as the premier investigative agency of the government.  

The agency director is a Presidential appointee and serves under the trust and confidence of the President and the Secretary of Justice (SOJ).

The branches consist of the following:

  • Investigation Service
  • Intelligence Service
  • Comptroller Service
  • Human Resource and Management Service
  • Forensic and Scientific Research Service
  • Legal Service
  • Information and Communications Technology Service

Rank Structure

The rank structure was reformed by Republic Act No. 10867, the 2016 Act “Reorganizing and Modernizing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Providing Funds Therefore.

If you’re interested in learning more about NBI Agent salary grades for 2023, we have prepared a comprehensive guide on the topic. You can find it here NBI Agent Salary Grade 2023.

The following was the old rank system used by the NBI:

  • Director VI
  • Director V (assistant director)
  • Director III (deputy director)
  • Director II (Regional Director)
  • Director I (Assistant Regional Director)
  • Investigation Agent VI (Head Agent)
  • Investigation Agent V (Supervising Agent)
  • nvestigation Agent

 IV (Senior Agent)

  • Investigation Agent III
  • Investigation Agent II
  • Investigation Agent I
  • Special Investigator V
  • Special Investigator IV
  • Special Investigator III

The following ranks were established after RA 10867 was passed in 2016:

  • Director
  • Deputy Director
  • Assistant Director
  • Regional Director
  • Assistant Regional Director
  • Head Agent
  • Supervising Agent
  • Senior Agent
  • Investigation Agent III

NBI Clearance

In addition to its investigative and law enforcement functions, the NBI also plays a crucial role in providing a document known as the NBI Clearance

This widely recognized document is essential for various legal and employment purposes, involving a thorough background check to determine an individual’s criminal history, if any. 

If you’re interested in obtaining an NBI Clearance or want to learn more about the application process, you can find detailed information on it here; NBI Clearance Online Application 2023: A Comprehensive Guide


In conclusion, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of the Philippines has a rich and storied history, with its origins dating back to the early 20th century. 

Its development can be traced through various phases, from the Constabulary Secret Service to the Division of Investigation and, ultimately, to the fully-fledged National Bureau of Investigation. The agency was established to address the pressing need for an effective and professional investigative body capable of handling complex crimes and organized crime groups.

The NBI’s historical journey was marked by significant challenges, including the suspension of its operations during World War II and the subsequent reorganization. 

Its resilience and dedication to its mission led to the eventual establishment of the NBI, which played a pivotal role in post-war justice and continues to do so today.

The NBI’s mandate is clear and multifaceted, covering a wide range of high-profile cases, from extrajudicial killings to transnational crimes. 

It operates within a well-structured organizational framework and a reformed rank structure, ensuring that it is well-equipped to address contemporary challenges effectively.

The agency’s NBI Clearance has become an essential document for various legal and employment purposes, facilitating background checks and enhancing security in official transactions.

As the NBI moves forward, it faces new challenges and opportunities, particularly in the realms of cybersecurity, forensic technology, and international cooperation. 

The agency’s history, mandate, and structure position it as a crucial player in maintaining law and order in the Philippines.

In summary, the National Bureau of Investigation serves as a cornerstone of justice and security in the Philippines, evolving to meet the ever-changing demands of a modern society while upholding its legacy of dedication and service to the nation.


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  1. About: National Bureau of Investigation (Philippines) – Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved 2023, from [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Bureau_of_Investigation_(Philippines)]