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Report No. 198

7.6 Philippines

In Philippines, an Act (which came into force from 24.4.1991), namely 'Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act' (Republic Act NO. 6981) is applicable. It provides witness protection, security and benefit under a programme. This programme is formulated and implemented by the Department of Justice through its Secretary.

Any person who has witnessed or has knowledge or information regarding the commission of a crime and has testified or is testifying or is about to testify before any judicial or quasi judicial body, or before any investigating authority, may be admitted into the programme if, (a) the offence in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony or its equivalent; (b) his testimony can be substantially corroborated in its material points; (c) he or any member of his family or affinity is subjected to threats to his life or bodily injury or there is likelihood that he will be killed, forced, intimidated, harassed or corrupted to prevent him from testifying, or to testify falsely, or evasively, because of or on account of his testimony; and (d) he is not a law enforcement officer.

If the Department of Justice, after examination of the applicant and taking into consideration other relevant facts, is convinced that the requirements of the Act or other rules and regulations have been complied with, it shall admit the said applicant to the programme. Thereafter, the witness shall be required to execute a sworn statement. In case of legislative investigation in aid of legislation, a witness with his express consent may be admitted into the programme upon the recommendations of the legislative committee.

As per section 5, before a person is provided protection under the Act, he shall be required to execute a memorandum of agreement which shall set forth his responsibilities including those referred to in this section. Any substantial breach of the memorandum of agreement shall be a ground for the termination of the protection.

All proceedings involving application for admission into the programme and actions taken thereon, shall be confidential in nature. No information or documents given or submitted in support thereof shall be released except upon written order of the Department or the proper court. Any person who violates the confidentiality of the said proceedings shall be punished.

According to section 8, a person who is admitted into the programme (i.e. the witness) shall have the following rights and benefits-

(a) To have a secure housing facility until he has testified or until the threats, etc. disappear or are reduced to a manageable or tolerable level. When the circumstances warrant, the witness shall also be entitled to relocation and/or change of personal identity at the expense of the programme. This right may be extended to any member of the family of the witness or affinity.

(b) The Justice Department shall, wherever practicable, assist the witness in obtaining a means of livelihood. The witness relocated shall be entitled to financial assistance from the programme for his support and that of his family.

(c) In no case the witness shall be removed from or demoted in work because of or on account of his absence due to his attendance before any judicial, quasi judicial or investigating authority including legislative investigation. But in case of prolonged transfer or permanent relocation, the employer shall have the option to remove the witness from employment after securing clearance from the Department. Any witness who has failed to report for work because of witness duty shall be paid his equivalent salaries or wages.

(d) To be provided with reasonable travelling expenses and subsistence allowance by the Programme for his attendance in the court, body or authority, as well as conferences and interviews with prosecutors or investigating officers.

(e) To be provided with free medical treatment, hospitalisation and medicines for any injury or illness incurred or suffered by him because of witness duty, in any private or public hospital, clinic or at any such institution at the expense of the programme.

(f) If a witness is killed, because of his participation in the programme, his heirs shall be entitled to a burial benefit of not less than Ten thousand Pesos (P, 10,000/-) from the programme.

(g) In case of death or permanent incapacity, his minor or dependant children shall be entitled to free education from primary school to college level in any state, or private school, college or university.

Section 9 provides that in cases where a witness who has been admitted into the programme has to testify, the judicial, quasi judicial or investigating authority shall ensure a speedy hearing or trial and shall endeavour to finish the said proceedings within three months from the filing of the case. According to section 10, any person who has participated in the commission of a crime and desires to be a witness for the State, can also apply for admitting him into the programme. The Department of Justice shall admit him into the programme, wherever the following circumstances are present:-

(a) the offence in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony;

(b) there is absolute necessity for his testimony;

(c) there is no direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offence committed;

(d) his testimony can be substantially corroborated on its material points;

(e) he does not appear to be most guilty; and

(f) he has not at any time been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

Any witness registered in the programme who fails or has refused to testify or to continue without just cause when lawfully obliged to do so, shall be prosecuted for contempt. If he testifies falsely or evasively, he shall be liable for perjury.

Section 14 provides that no witness admitted into the programme can refuse to testify or give evidence or produce documents etc., necessary for the prosecution of the offence on the ground of the constitutional right against self-incrimination. However, he shall enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution and cannot be subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for any transaction, matter or thing concerning his compelled testimony or production of documents etc.

Under section 17, any person who harasses a witness and thereby hinders, delays, prevents or dissuades a witness from:-

(a) attending or testifying before any judicial or quasi judicial body or investigating authority;

(b) reporting to a law enforcement officer or judge about the commission or possible commission of an offence, or a violation of conditions of probation, parole, or release pending judicial proceedings;

(c) seeking the arrest of another person in connection with the offence;

(d) causing a criminal prosecution, or a proceeding for the revocation of a parole or probation; or

(e) performing and enjoying the rights and benefits under this Act or attempting to do so, shall be punished.



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