Press Release
July 5, 2009


Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said that the security detail to key witnesses in the national broadband network-ZTE scandal should not be totally withdrawn by the Senate unless it is absolutely sure that they are no longer facing any threat to their lives. Pimentel said the minority-opposition senators would like to see the basis for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's decision for pulling out the four-man security detail to Dante Madriaga and the reduction of the number of security escorts to Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada from eight to four men.

The Senate chief's action was supposedly based on the assessment made by the Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.

Pimentel said that while the reduction in the security detail to Lozada may be justified, he is uncomfortable with the withdrawal of all the four security men to Madriaga.

He noted that Madriaga himself has objected to the move because he feels that there are still some people who want to harm him for blowing the whistle on the alleged telecommunications scam.

"My suggestion is let us not totally withdraw the security detail for Madriaga and Lozada. We should not make them feel that their safety is being taken for granted by the Senate after they were used in the Senate investigation," he said.

Otherwise, the minority leader said potential witnesses in other controversies and anomalies in government being investigated by the Senate would be discouraged from coming forward and from testifying.

If that happens, Pimentel said the credibility of the Senate investigations is in danger of being undermined.

Although the Senate is incurring huge expenses for extending protection to its witnesses, he said this should not pose as a problem because of the important role they are playing in uncovering wrongdoing committed by public functionaries and the hazards to which they expose themselves.

At the same time, Pimentel said he is pushing hard for the approval of the bill that will extend adequate protection to witnesses and provide the necessary funds for the purpose. Dubbed the Whistle-Blowers Act, the bill is authored by him and Senators Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Villar, Mar Roxas and Jamby Madrigal.

He expressed the hope that when the regular session of Congress resumes early this month, the committee on justice and human rights, chaired by Sen. Francis Escudero, will expedite deliberations on the measure.

Pimentel stressed that the Senate should devise its own system for protecting witnesses in its investigations because it could not depend on the Witness Protection Program being administered by the Department of Justice for obvious reasons.

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