Fear has forced a lone witness against the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) to leave the government’s Witness Protection Program (WWP), sending investigation of the group and its supposed links to President Rodrigo Duterte in limbo, Sen. Leila de Lima said on Friday.
De Lima, in an interview, said the self-confessed hitman of the DDS who was admitted to the WPP last year voluntarily left the program weeks before the May 9 presidential elections.
“He voluntarily went out of the WPP nung nalaman nya na mananalo na si Duterte [after sensing that Duterte will win]. That’s what I heard,” the senator added, referring to Rodrigo Duterte, eventual winner of the race for President.
The Department of Justice last year initiated a fact-finding inquiry into unexplained killings in Davao City reportedly carried out by the DDS.
Until his successful presidential run, Duterte had been mayor of the city for more than 20 years.
De Lima, who was then the Justice secretary, wanted to find out the truth behind the alleged links of Duterte to the death squad, which was allegedly responsible for summary executions of suspected criminals in Davao City.
Duterte in May 2015 admitted having ties to the vigilante group and even asked Filipinos not to vote for him as President of the country because he does not want to kill more people.
De Lima said it would be difficult to continue with the investigation of the DDS now that the lone witness is gone.
“We cannot force the witnesses of the WPP to stay because the WPP is not a jailer of people. The coverage is voluntary [and]if the witness doesn’t want to stay for whatever reason, we cannot stop him,” she added.
De Lima had assigned a special team at the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct the probe before she left the DOJ to run for senator.
“But I don’t know what will happen without the prospective witness,” she said.
An article posted on the CBCP News website cited a consolidated report on the alleged killings perpetuated by the DDS from 1998 to 2015.
Based on the report a total of 1,424 were killed by the vigilante group, including women and children.