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PostSubject: 'Truth' witnesses to be protected    Sun Oct 17, 2010 10:51 am

MANILA, Philippines - The chairman of the Truth Commission said the fact-finding body will provide protection to informants and witnesses in large-scale graft and corruption cases that it will investigate.

“We also have a mechanism for witness protection,” said Commission member Carlos Medina.

Commission chair and former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. said the fact-finding body will be entirely different from the incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) whose recommendations were subjected to evaluation by President Aquino, who decided to lessen the accountability of officials involved in the failed hostage rescue.

“In our case, it will be entirely different because we are going to submit our report to the President. The President will decide to publish the report, interim or final,” said Davide during a chance interview.

Medina said the fact-finding body is composed of retired justices who will defend their recommendation and will be setting up criteria on each case brought before them.

“It is not regarded in that light. It is not coming from any lawyer. They are retired justices,” he said.

The Commission approved and promulgated Resolution 022 urging members of the public to file complaints or submit reports to the Commission of their personal knowledge on cases involving massive graft and corruption committed from 2001 to 2010 during the previous administration.

Medina said the Commission is setting up a desk at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) for the purpose of receiving reports or complaints.

Leaving no stone unturned

He said cases of alleged irregularities already in court may also be investigated by the Commission as the fact-finding body and the courts have different goals, structures and proceedings.

“They may overlap in terms of the subject matter covered but the goals are different. A court proceeding focuses on an individual’s accountability, specific person. In court proceedings, they will find out if this person is guilty or not,” Medina said.

“The Truth Commission may or may not also look into an individual’s accountability but it will look at patterns, whether or not a person determined to be guilty and there is a pattern of abuse. It has to be addressed. What is the problem with our system, what institutions should be held responsible for graft and corruption,” he added.

Davide, on the other hand, noted that the body will look into cases already filed in courts.

“We have to determine. We will know how to decide if that would collide so we will know what move we can do,” he said.

The Commission announced on Friday that it has started laying down the ground work and reviewing at least 23 cases, including alleged irregularities involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,while it awaits the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the constitutionality of the executive order creating the fact-finding body.

Davide said during the first press conference of the Commission that the body would be ready for its substantive work “if by the grace of God the SC shall decide in favor of the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 1” promulgated by Aquino.

Different government agencies and departments including about 27 government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) were requested by the Commission to provide them with enough information on large-scale graft and corruption until Oct. 30.

The others were required to submit documents to the Commission that will also be used to determine the accountability of officials involved on Nov. 30.

The Commission started reviewing a tentative list of 23 cases, including the NBN-ZTE deal, the “Hello, Garci” scandal and alleged irregularities committed during the Arroyo administration covering the period of 2001 to 2010 to make a priority of cases that the fact-finding body will focus on.

The fact-finding body assured that Arroyo, government officials and private individuals who will be subject of the investigation will be treated fairly.

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