November 25, 2017, 9:46 am
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Issue of confidence

JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has warned the Catholic church, particularly Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, that they could be charged with obstruction of justice for taking custody of a key witness in the killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos last Aug. 16.

Aguirre contends that witnesses in high-profile cases such as the Kian killing should be placed under the itness Protection Program (WPP) which is administered by the Department of Justice.

Why the church became involved in the custody of the witness and his siblings is an interesting story. They used to be protected by Sen. Risa Hontiveros who brought them to the Senate for public hearings. After the testimony of the witness, he and his companions sought the help and protection of the Diocese of Caloocan, presumably because they fear for their lives and felt safe under the auspices of the Catholic church.

The siblings’ father, who is under police detention for a drug case, initially agreed to turn over the group to the PNP Criminal Investigation Group but changed his mind following a meeting with the children.

Bishop David himself said he is willing to relinquish custody of the group to the father as long as he signs a release form. The father maintained that the witness and his siblings are better off with the Church rather than the Witness Protection Program. Pursuing Aguirre’s position, the CIDG and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption questioned the father’s change of heart, triggering a standoff. 

The father’s decision prevailed, of course, as the decision to join any government program, including the WPP, is private and personal, and should depend upon the individuals concerned.

Feeling spurned, Aguirre said he will ask that the witness be turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation, an agency under him, and “if they still refuse, there could possibly be an obstruction of justice there.”

Clearly, the bishop was not opposed to turning over the witness and his siblings to the government. It was their father’s decision to stay with the church, after consultations with the minors.

The church was just giving sanctuary to the witness and five other companions. And it is apparent that in the matter of personal security, the father distrusts the government, be it the Philippine National Police, the WPP, the NBI, the DOJ and even the pro-Duterte non-government organization, the VACC. 

It all boils down to confidence, Secretary Aguirre. The Duterte administration has squandered its huge capital of trust in the area of peace and order, because of its unsavory record of handling witnesses and suspects.

The first business of the government should be to salvage whatever public trust remains in the population.
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