MANILA -- Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta on Thursday urged Senator Risa Hontiveros to turn over the witnesses in the shooting of Grade 11 student Kian Loyd Delos Santos in the Aug. 16 anti-drug operations in Caloocan to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
"Sen. Risa (Hontiveros) should now turn over their custody to the DOJ and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) because the Delos Santos family has chosen our office to handle their case," she said, adding that the custody of Hontiveros on the three witnesses - including two minors - was temporary.
Acosta earlier vowed to provide legal assistance to Kian's family through the PAO.
Hontiveros took under her office's custody the three witnesses in the killing following her visit to Kian's wake over the weekend.
"The family of these witnesses initially sought her help, but the parents of the minors have already decided to recall the custody of the witnesses from the senator," Acosta said.
Acosta also bared that the murder charges against the policemen involved in Kian's death will be filed before the DOJ on Friday, confirming that a fourth eyewitness is already in her office's custody.
"We will apply for WPP coverage of the witness after the filing of the complaint for murder before the DOJ (Friday)," she said.
With this, the PAO chief echoed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre's stand saying witnesses to the incident should be under the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Administered by the DOJ, the WPP 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/her from reprisals and from economic dislocation.
Aguirre earlier said that Hontiveros' alleged biases against the government's anti-drug campaign may affect the credibility of the witnesses.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said that she will leave it to the witnesses to decide who they want to take them in custody.
The senator added that she would respect the decision of the witnesses and their families should they decide to transfer to another agency or person.
Kung tingin ng pamilya ng ilan sa mga testigo na nasa aking pangangalaga ay mas mapapangalagaan ang kanilang kaligtasan sa iba, lubos nating igagalang ito (If the families of the witnesses under my custody think they could be taken care of by other people, I would respect this), Hontiveros said.
Aguirre earlier ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe and case build-up over the death of Delos Santos and to file appropriate charges against the involved policemen.
The four police officers implicated in the Kian shooting -- PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda and PO1 Jerwin Cruz and their precinct commander, Chief Insp. Amor Cerillo -- were placed under restrictive custody in wake of ongoing investigations.
Source: Philippine News Agency