Weak protection in Witness Protection Program?
MANILA, Philippines – The Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines (WAP) claimed that a weak Witness Protection Program (WPP) led to the death of Alfred Mendiola, the star witness in the 2011 Venson Evangelista slay case.
Sandra Cam, president of WAP, said Mendiola's killing is proof of the weakness of the Department of Justice’s WPP.
“Kasalanan na ‘yan ng DOJ. Dapat ang DOJ secretary will see to it na ang kanilang witness ay well-protected,” Cam said on Wednesday.
‘Mendiola refused security’
Secretary Leila de Lima, however, insists she is not to blame for Mendiola's death.
She said Mendiola's own violations of the program's policies ultimately led to his death.
Mendiola was supposed to have been removed from the WPP because of these violations.
“Marami siyang violations. Ayaw na ayaw niya talaga ng 24-hour security protection. Wala pong pagkukulang kami. Ginawa po namin lahat ng dapat gawin,” said de Lima.
The acting director of WPP Martin Meñez agrees, saying Mendiola was offered several times to use a safehouse but he refused.
“Si Alfred tinanggihan niya ang aming security protection na binibigay sa kanya. Ayaw niya talaga. Pormal niya na hiningi sa amin na huwag siyang bigyan ng security protection. Hindi naman kami basta-basta pumayag. Noong natanggap ko ang sulat, nag-usap kami at napagkasunduan namin na ilayo siya sa panganib,” Meñez told ANC’s “Prime Time” on Wednesday.
Meñez noted that the day Mendiola was killed, the witness did not notify authorities that he was going to leave the secured area.
“Bagamat obligasyon namin na protektahan ang witness, dapat ang witness concerned din sa kanyang security,” Meñez said.
“Wala akong nakitang kapabayaan doon kasi si Alfred naman talagang mino-monitor naman ‘yan kahit hindi niya alam. Lahat ng proseso sinunod namin,” he added.
Cam insists the DOJ cannot use Mendiola's uncooperativeness as an excuse.
She said it is the DOJ’s duty to guard the witness at all times.
Other state witnesses now fear for their own lives after seeing how Mendiola died under the Witness Protection Program.
One of them is Col. George Rabusa, a star witness in cases involving the Armed Forces.
“’Yung nangyari kay Mendiola, siyempre mag-iisip ako niyan eh na it might happen to me. Mabigat ‘yung kalaban niya pero sa tingin ko mas mabigat kalaban ko kasi these are retired and active generals and colonels,” said Rabusa.
Rabusa is even more worried now that his security detail has been reduced.
Cam reveals some whistleblowers are already arming themselves for their own protection.
The Whistleblowers Association now calls on the Senate to pass the Whistleblowers Act not only for their own security but for the safety of their families. -- With reports from Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News; ANC