MANILA - A lawmaker is opposing the proposal to transfer the management of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the courts, saying this would only compromise the integrity of the country's justice system.
"With all due respect to the proponent, I believe the proposal (to transfer WPP to the courts) would create problems in our justice system. The WPP rightly belongs to the DOJ primarily because they are the prosecutorial arm of government," House Committee on Labor Chairman and Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said in a statement.
Nograles noted that witnesses under the WPP are testifying in favor of the prosecution. Therefore, it is only logical that they be protected and managed by the DOJ.
He said it is the prosecution's job to convince the courts that their witnesses are telling the truth.
Placing witnesses under the care of the courts would be unfair for the defendant, whose objective is to disprove the charges of the prosecution.
It could also raise doubts on the courts' impartiality in appreciating merits of cases, he added.
"If you transfer the WPP to the courts, you are damning the accused. The accused will be good-as-convicted," Nograles said.
Deputy Speaker Sergio Apostol had filed a House bill seeking to amend Republic Act 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act by transferring the administration of the WPP from the DOJ to the local courts purpotedly to insulate it from politics.
Nograles, however, stressed that making the court as the administrator of the witnesses would create the impression that they are now "witnesses of the court."
"I would still rather keep the witnesses under the protection of the prosecutors and keep the courts isolated from politics. Let the courts keep their neutrality so that when the prosecutors present their protected witness and place them on the witness stand, the courts can freely judge whether or not to believe the testimony of that witness bias-free and politics-free," he said.