Roque undertakes to protect civilian and police witnesses
MANILA – UniTeam Senatorial aspirant Harry Roque wants to reintroduce measures that protect witnesses to show the government’s commitment to prosecuting serious crimes such as those related to the war on drugs perpetrated by the police.
Roque said he would reintroduce bills such as the Witness Privacy Act and the Whistleblower Act as part of his legislative priorities for the Senate if he wins the national election in May. These bills would give more legal protection to civilian and police witnesses.
The former member of the 17th Congress cited the 52 “cases related to the war on drugs” being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for possible criminal charges against wrongdoing police officers.
Roque is monitoring developments in the case, saying “the state is obligated to provide domestic legal recourse to victims of human rights abuses and heinous crimes, particularly if law enforcement is involved”.
“The investigation could be blocked by the fact that most of the key witnesses are themselves police officers,” he said in a press release on Tuesday.
“We cannot bring criminal charges against police officers and officials responsible for extrajudicial executions of drug-related suspects unless their police colleagues come forward and testify,” he added.
In 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released an information matrix on the 52 cases to encourage witnesses to contact the NBI.
The Justice Department also informed relatives of the deceased suspects that the criminal responsibilities of the officers involved were being determined.
“To successfully resolve such cases, we must ensure the legal protection and safety of whistleblowers, including law enforcement, who disclose wrongdoing in government or the private sector,” said Castling.
Roque’s proposed legislation is the Witness Privacy Act (House Bill 1460) which protects a witness’s contact information such as home address, business address and telephone numbers.
The information, he said, should not be disclosed at any hearing unless the court orders otherwise. The burden of establishing the necessity of the information will also rest with the defense or the party seeking disclosure.”
He would also reintroduce the Whistleblower Protection Act (House Bill 223) which protects whistleblowers, whether private citizens or government agents, from acts of retaliation.
Roque said an act of retaliation is any action that harms the rights and interests of a whistleblower taken by an employer, superior or agency head.
Such action will include the dismissal, suspension, transfer or demotion of whistleblowers. It also refers to the reduction or withholding of their salary, benefits and bonuses, Roque added. (RP)