MANILA, Philippines- A furious Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Wednesday she would not hesitate to file charges against Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) officials who “burned” the identities of two state witnesses under the government’s protection.
According to CIDG Anti-Organized Crime Division (AOCD) team leader, Senior Supt. Jose Mario Espino, the alleged state witnesses were identified as a security guard in San Juan subdivision where Li Lan Yan, fugitive Chinese drug lord, rented an apartment and a gardener in the same subdivision who also works as a garbage collector.
This disclosure raged De Lima.
“Why are they burning the DOJ’s witnesses? On the premise that they got the names right, why are they burning them? I will get back at them. They have violated the confidentiality provision of WPP,” a stern De Lima said.
De Lima stressed that under Republic Act (RA) No. 6981, also known as the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program, names of witnesses admitted at WPP should be withheld, unless they give their consent.
Section 7 of the law further states that violating the act brings a penalty of up to six years of imprisonment and a veto from holding public office for five years.
The two state witnesses claimed that drugs and millions of cash were obtained when Li, alias Jackson Dy and Wang Li Na were recaptured . The CIDG officers purportedly seized 80 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu and stole P15-20 million.
However, Espino denied the allegations. He clarified that his team was not able to find drugs in Li’s apartment and the alleged witnesses were lying during a television interview.
Espino added that the syndicate must have paid some members of the media to proliferate defamations against his team.
“We have also been investigating this matter on our own. We have already put together the pieces of the puzzle. Who are our enemies? It’s the drug sydicate, which uses money and not just guns. Their money has reached all levels of the government and even up to some members of the media. We all know that. Some of our enemies are also from the government,” he said.
Espino further expressed resentment over De Lima’s statements.
“We’re really disappointed because she had already prejudged the case. She said what the witnesses were believable. What if they were not admitted by the WPP because they lied? What will happen to us? Our reputation has already been tainted. Our families are already affected,” Espino said.
However, De Lima stood to the testimonies of the two witnesses, saying she has no reason to doubt the witnesses’ credibility even if the CIDG will oppose to the testimonies.
“I may be wrong, but I will admit it (as) my mistake. I am not afraid to own up to my mistakes. I am not afraid to take responsibility,” she said.
De Lima further stressed that the DOJ is just doing its job to investigate the witnesses’ allegations. She added that certain personalities may be provoking the PNP-CIDG and DOJ-NBI camps into a fight.
The Chinese couple and a third convict, Li Tian Hua, were convicted in a drug case on 2008. They were able to escape detention on February 20 after being allegedly assisted by members of the Ozamiz robbery group while they were on their way to a court hearing in Cavite. They were recaptured in a raid on July 12.
Dessa Ruth B. Reyes
Leyte Normal University