MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has assured the security of witnesses in the Dr. Gerry Ortega slay case who are under its Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima made the assurance following the death on Tuesday of Dennis Aranas, alleged lookout in Ortega's shooting in January 2011, inside his detention cell in Quezon Province.
Aranas was the second witness in the case to have died. Val Lecias, who allegedly bought the gun used to kill Ortega, died in 2012.
De Lima said she has instructed the WPP to ensure the safety and security of the remaining witnesses under its coverage, namely, Rodolfo "Bumar" Edrad, Armando Noel, and Arwin Arandia.
"I have instructions, of course, sa WPP and even without instructions like that, the WPP really continues to secure the witnesses. Trabaho nila yan and mandato nila yan," she said.
The justice chief clarified that Aranas was no longer with the WPP at the time of his death.
"May provisional [WPP coverage] siya noong ineevaluate pa sila [into the program]. Yung si Mr. Aranas, hindi na-approve yung regular admission niya because there was a certification on non-materiality by the handling prosecutors, meaning, hindi material and kanyang testimony. Hindi na-comply yung requisite na yun so he was not covered [anymore]," De Lima pointed out.
She lamented criticisms hurled at the WPP, stressing the program is doing its job of protecting state witnesses.
"Akala tuloy ng publiko hindi sila [witnesses] nase-secure ng WPP. I'm proud to note that WPP now is well-ran by the administrators of that program. Ang daming reforms, only that we are not publicizing them because matters pertaining to the WPP are confidential," De Lima said.
Ortega, an environmentalist and broadcaster, was shot at a public place in Palawan. Former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and several others, were charged for his murder.