What is the Witness Protection Program?
It is a program established under Republic Act No. 6981, "The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act", which seeks to encourage a person who has witnessed or has knowledge of the commission of a crime to testify before a court or quasi-judicial body, or before an investigating authority, by protecting him from reprisals and from economic dislocation.
Who can be admitted into the Program?
- Any person who has knowledge of or information on the commission of a crime and has testified or is testifying or is willing to testify.
- A witness in a congressional investigation, upon the recommendation of the legislative committee where his testimony is needed and with the approval of the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be.
- A witness who participated in the commission of a crime and who desires to be a State witness.
- An accused who is discharged from an information or criminal complaint by the court in order that he may be a State witness.
Who are disqualified for admission into the Program?
An applicant will not be admitted into the program if:
- the offense in which his testimony will be used is not a grave felony;
- his testimony cannot be substantially corroborated in its material points;
- he or any member of his family within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity has not been threatened with death or bodily injury or there is no likelihood that he will be killed, forced, intimidated, harassed or corrupted to prevent him from testifying or to testify falsely or evasively because or on account of his testimony; and
- if the applicant is a law enforcement officer even if he will testify against other law enforcement officers. The immediate members of the applicant may, however, be admitted into the program.
How is a person admitted to the Program?
The person in danger or his or her family may get an application form from the Secretariat, Witness Protection Security and Benefit Program. This is at the Department of Justice building in Padre Faura, Manila. The applicant may also get the form from the nearest Regional State Prosecutor. The proceedings involving the application for admission, the action taken thereon and the information or documents submitted in support of the application are confidential. They cannot be released without the written order of the Department of Justice or the proper court.
What happens if an applicant is qualified to be a witness?
The witness is required to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Government.
What benefits may a witness under the Program receive?
The benefits include the following:
- Security protection and escort services.
- Immunity from criminal prosecution and not to be subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for any transaction, matter or thing concerning his compelled testimony or books, documents or writings produced.
- Secure housing facility.
- Assistance in obtaining a means of livelihood.
- Reasonable traveling expenses and subsistence allowance while acting as a witness.
- Free medical treatment, hospitalization and medicine for any injury or illness incurred or suffered while acting as a witness.
- Burial benefits of not less than Ten Thousand pesos (P10,000.00) if the witness is killed because of his participation in the Program.
- Free education from primary to college level for the minor or dependent children of a witness who dies or is permanently incapacitated.
- Non-removal or demotion in work because of absences due to his being a witness and payment of full salary or wage while acting as witness.
What will happen to a witness who refuses or fails to testify?
He may be arrested or detained and prosecuted for perjury or contempt.
When is a witness discharged from the Program?
A witness is discharged -
- when he has already testified or has completed his witness duty;
- if he fails or refuses to testify;
- if he is no longer regarded as a necessary witness; or
- if the danger falls away.
What benefits are given to a witness who is honorably discharged from the Program?
After being honorably discharged as a witness, he and any member of his family within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity may be relocated in an area where he will be safe and/or given a new personal identity. He may also be given one-time financial assistance for his support and that of his family.
Requirements for the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program (R.A. No. 6981):