Solons want stiff penalties for law enforcers who refuse to testify in non-drug-related cases

LAWMAKERS have filed a bill penalizing members of law enforcement agencies and other public officials who fail or refuse to testify as prosecution witnesses in any criminal proceedings despite due notice.

Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and Maximo Rodriguez Jr. (Party-list, Abante Mindanao) filed House Bill 1644 as they noted that quite a number of criminal cases, including those involving grave penal offenses or felonies, have been dismissed, or the accused were unduly acquitted, due to the failure or deliberate refusal of the prosecution witnesses to appear or testify despite due notice.

“They are enforcers of the law, not the cause of injustice,” Rodriguez said.

According to Rodriguez, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 imposes heavy penalty and fine to any member of law enforcement agencies who fails or refuses intentionally or negligently to appear as witness involving violations of the said Act.

The same Act also penalizes with imprisonment and fine, including perpetual disqualification to hold public office, the immediate supervisor of the erring prosecution witness, if despite due notice to them and to the witness concerned, the former does not exert reasonable effort to present the latter to the court, Rodriguez added.

But as explicitly provided in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law, the sanctions imposable against defiant prosecution witnesses can be applied only in dangerous drugs related cases, Rodriguez lamented.

As such, Rodriguez said, punishment cannot be imposed upon erring prosecution witnesses in other criminal cases.

“We see no logic or reason in limiting the protection from miscarriage of justice to dangerous drugs-related cases. Proper disposition of other criminal cases deserve the same concern and protection,” Rodriguez stressed.

Under House Bill 1644, failure to testify in any criminal proceeding without justifiable reason shall be penalized with imprisonment of not less than 12 years and one day to 20 years and a fine of not less than P500,000 with perpetual disqualification to hold public office.

Likewise, it also provides that the immediate supervisor of the erring prosecution witness shall be penalized with imprisonment of not less than two months and one day but not more than six years and a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P50,000 and in addition, perpetual absolute disqualification to hold office, if despite due notice to them and to the witness concerned, the former did not exert reasonable effort to present the latter to the court, or fails to institute appropriate administrative action against such subordinates for the latter’s failure or refusal to testify.

The provisions of the proposed Act do not apply to prosecution witnesses who are called to testify for any violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act since they are already covered by the said law.

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