MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima has threatened to withdraw fugitive Cezar Mancao from the witness protection program (WPP) if he refuses to surrender after his bold escape from the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
De Lima said she has put on hold Mancao's removal from the program in spite of a Manila trial court ruling junking the motion for his discharge as an accused in the Dacer-Corbito twin killing so he may turn state witness. She said she felt the "moral obligation" to ensure Mancao's protection.
In a telephone conversation after his escape, De Lima said she demanded for Mancao to immediately surrender because his escape was compromising the image of the NBI and Department of Justice (DOJ).
"I'm always hesitant to terminate WPP coverage. I feel I have the moral obligation to give protection to him. Wala nang legal obligation, baka may moral obligation. Wala na akong choice. I have not terminated his WPP coverage. Matagal na dapat terminated yan... Ako naiipit ako dito...This is a serious breach of his (WPP) undertaking," De Lima said.
The justice chief even offered to fetch Mancao wherever he may be if only to ensure his protection, and assured him the DOJ will pursue other legal remedies to push for his discharge as an accused. De Lima gave Mancao up to end of the day, yesterday, to turn himself in, but Mancao failed to meet this deadline.
Mancao has insisted that his life will be in grave danger once he is transferred to the Manila City Jail based on an order handed down by the trial court on April 30.
"Mananawagan ako sa kanya, Mr. Mancao, you are leaving me no choice but to terminate [your WPP coverage] if magmatigas ka pa rin," De Lima said.
Mancao exposed to more danger
De Lima also said Mancao is exposed to more danger now that he has escaped from his detention facility at the NBI. This, in spite of Mancao's claims that he will be safer outside than in any detention facility.
"He is exposing himself now to more danger. We don't agree. Sabi nya, 'Ma'am mas safe ako pag nasa labas ako.' I don't agree," she said.