De Lima fights for control of WPP

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 25 2014 04:41 AM | Updated as of Jun 25 2014 12:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is not willing to give up her power over the witness protection program (WPP) of the government.

De Lima has opposed a bill in the House of Representatives seeking to transfer the supervision of the WPP, which handles prosecution and state witnesses, from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the courts.

House Bill 4583 seeks to amend Republic Act 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.

Its author, Deputy Speaker Sergio Apostol, said the transfer of the WPP from the DOJ is necessary to “shield the program from possible corrosive politics.”

The bill was filed amid allegations by former whistle-blower Sandra Cam, who was once covered by the WPP, that De Lima has been mishandling the program by limiting its coverage to witnesses that would be useful to the Aquino administration.

Cam, head of the Whistle-blowers Association of the Philippines, had said she has recommended some witnesses for WPP coverage only to be rejected by the DOJ chief.

But De Lima believes the proposal was hinged on a wrong premise.

“To say that the determination of who can be WPP-covered is tainted by partisan politics is certainly a sweeping and reckless accusation,” she lamented.

The DOJ chief stressed that there are hundreds of WPP-covered witnesses spread all over the country in various criminal cases who have been admitted in the program “on the basis of clear standards.”

“Foremost of which are security threats and the necessity of the testimony of the subject witness, with due assessment of both factors by highly professional DOJ officials, who are mostly prosecutors. As in the fulfillment of DOJ’s mandate, overall, politics is never a consideration in our administration of the WPP,” she maintained.