MANILA - Senate President Franklin Drilon is opposing a bill that seeks to remove the Witness Protection Program (WPP) from the Department of Justice.
House Bill No. 4583, filed by Deputy Speaker Sergio Apostol, seeks to transfer the implementation of the WPP from the DOJ to the local courts. Apostol said the transfer of the WPP from the DOJ is necessary to "shield the program from possible corrosive politics."
Drilon, who is a former justice secretary, said it is part of the DOJ's mandate to search out for witnesses and ensure their safety to aid in effective disposition of justice.
"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," he said in a statement.
"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 said that during his time as justice secretary, the WPP was effective in the conviction of then Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
He also pointed out that politics is not a consideration in enrolling a witness into the WPP.
"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 said.