House okays amendments to witness protection program

THE House of Representatives has approved on second reading a measure encouraging witnesses to enter the government’s witness protection program by providing better protection and benefits to them to ensure
the speedy and fair disposition of justice.

House Bill 5714, mandates that witness duty shall include the attendance of the witness in the court body or authority where one is required as well as in conferences and interviews with prosecutors or investigating officers.

Reps. Roilo Golez (2nd District, Parañaque City) said the bill provides free medical treatment, hospitalization and medicines while on witness duty or while in the safehouse.

Golez said the present law should be amended in order to improve the conditions and procedures for providing protection and assistance to a witness in legislative investigations.

“Witnesses are afraid to testify during an investigation on criminal cases for fear that they would be exposed to severe danger,” Golez added.

Simeon Datumanong (2nd District, Maguindanao) said it is common knowledge that the successful prosecution of criminal offenses primarily rests on the willingness of witnesses to fully cooperate with the authorities who investigate and prosecute these criminal offenses.

“Many cases were lost because of the natural reticence of prospective witnesses to involve themselves in criminal actions because of fear for their lives and limbs.  It is therefore imperative for the State to encourage prospective witnesses to help the authorities prosecute criminal offenses by providing them the necessary assistance not only for their safety but also their welfare,” Datumanong said.

Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) said in view of the active roles of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the investigation of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance of government officials which are detrimental to the interests of the Filipino people, there is a need to amend Republic Act 6981 otherwise known as the “Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.”

The bill provides that a witness who is relocated to an accredited Witness Protection Security and Benefit Program (WPSBP) safehouse/ temporary shelter shall be considered to be under witness duty.

It mandates the granting of free education from primary to college level in any state school, college or university to the witness’ minor or dependent children during his/her admission to the Program and up
to one year after the termination of the witness duty.

The measure likewise provides for the perpetuation of testimonies of witnesses in consonance with Rule 134 of the Revised Rules of Court, The Rule on Perpetuation of Testimony has been transposed to the Rules
of Court on Depositions and Discovery.

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