MANILA, June 25 (Mabuhay) – Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said he is opposed to a proposed legislation which seeks to remove the Witness Protection Program (WPP) from the Department of Justice, saying that it is part of the agency’s mandate as the government’s primary prosecution arm to search out for witnesses and ensure their safety to aid in effective disposition of justice.
The Senate leader threw his support behind Secretary Leila de Lima who sought to retain jurisdiction on the WPP under the DOJ which is the subject of House Bill No. 4583 seeking to transfer administration of WPP to lower courts.
As former justice secretary, Drilon said he fully understands the need for the DOJ to retain control of the WPP.
“It is the duty of the DOJ being the lead prosecutor to gather credible witnesses who have knowledge about the crimes committed. But to persuade a witness to speak out is not an easy task. It is where the WPP plays an important role because it is being used by prosecutors to convince a witness to testify against a criminal offender,” said Drilon.
“The WPP is a factor that convinces witnesses to cooperate with the DOJ in its duty to prosecute criminal offenders and provide justice. It is also therefore the obligation of the DOJ to give 24-hour protection to the lives of state witnesses and provide for their needs while they are in government’s custody,” he added.
Drilon pointed out that there are standards the DOJ follows to enroll a witness into WPP and “politics is definitely not a consideration.”
“The primary considerations are the relevance of the testimony and the threat to the life of the state witness. Politics does not and should not play any role in determining who qualifies as state witness,” he stressed.
During his time as justice secretary, Drilon said the WPP became effective in the conviction of then Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
The Senate leader concluded that the WPP has been an effective government mechanism for the administration of justice in the country.(MNS)