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Stoning whistle-blowers

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Photos of well-coiffed legislators, at President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, will cram Tuesday’s media. Fine. But keep those festering issues up front, too. Take whistle-blowers.

Benhur Luy ripped the P10-billion pork of five senators and 23 congressmen. This humongous serving of taxpayer money had been funneled into 20 bogus nongovernment organizations. Luy owes the American activist Ralph Nader. In the 1970s, Nader cobbled “whistle-blower” to tag those who expose sleaze.

Luy alleged he had been detained by the scam’s brains. Janet Lim-Napoles, of JLN Corp., sued Luy. Thursday, Luy badgered for—and got—provisional Witness Protection Program shield. If a warrant of arrest is served, the justice department will inform Pasig’s Judge Danilo Buemio that Luy is under government protection, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

When whistle-blowers end up as accused, it’s time to ask: Is today’s policy to canonize thieves as crusaders? Indeed, “governments must create an environment that encourages, instead of penalizes, citizens who denounce venality,” urged the 9th International Anti-Corruption meeting in South Africa. The Philippines and 134 other countries cobbled that yardstick.

Remember “Deep Throat”? In 1972, this whistle-blower slipped to Washington Post data on White House involvement in the Watergate scandal. The uproar led to jail terms for five White House officials. Richard Nixon wrote a one-sentence letter: “I resign as President of the United States.”

Vanity Fair magazine, 31 years later, reported “Deep Throat” was former Federal Bureau of Investigation associate director Mark Felt. The Post’s executive editor during Watergate, Benjamin Bradlee, confirmed the report.

We have our share of “Deep Throats.” Banker Clarissa Ocampo testified that Joseph Estrada signed the notorious Jose Velarde account—which she refused to certify. Threats cascaded in. Auditor Heidi Mendoza testified on her documentation of a P510-million theft by the AFP Comptroller’s Office. Gen. Carlos Garcia has been convicted. But a partisan Commission on Appointments refused to confirm President Aquino’s appointment of Mendoza as Commission on Audit commissioner.

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down,” the Filipino axiom warns. Ensign Philip Pestaño bucked in 1997 the misuse of Navy boats to haul illegal lumber and drugs. He was shot in his cabin. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales reinstituted murder charges stalled for decades.

Marian School of Quezon City academic supervisor Antonio Calipjo Go exposed flawed textbooks. False charges were filed against him and some columnists smeared him.

After Land Bank’s Acsa Ramirez blew the whistle on tax scams, NBI agents shoved her into a police lineup which President Gloria Arroyo used for photo op.

Shanghaied by government agents, Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada testified before the Senate how a ZTE broadband loan, for $132 million, ballooned to $329 million. The overrun authors of this scam remain scot-free. Still guarded by Catholic nuns today, Lozada is harassed by charges.

Not every whistle-blower is a candidate for beatification. Former police officer Cezar Mancao II, who offered to blow the whistle on the Bubby Dacer murder, bolted NBI custody when courts ordered his transfer to jail.

Remember Mary “Rosebud” Ong? She blew the whistle on intelligence officers sloshing in narcotics trade.

Vidal Doble, of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, revealed tampering the “Garci” tapes.

Primitivo Mijares was one of Ferdinand Marcos’ chief propagandists. He wrote the book “Conjugal Dictatorship” and testified against the dictatorship. Mijares disappeared in 1977 and his 15-year-old son was later found murdered.

Auditors are constitutional whistle-blowers. The COA has gone through pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009, Chair Maria Grace Pulido-Tan revealed. Funds squandered already exceed P10 billion. Both administration and opposition legislators splurged. The COA’s next report will identify more legislators who squirreled taxes in dubious NGOs. “Whoever will be hit will be hit,” she said. “But what can we do?” More of the same, please.

“Both the kind and extent of support that a legitimate whistle-blower should be able to expect remains unclear,” says an earlier Asian Institute of Management study titled “Whistle-blowing in the Philippines: Awareness, Attitudes and Structures.” “An explicit policy that will govern whistle-blowing” is needed.

Whistle-blowers who tell the truth make corruption a high-risk activity, Dr. Romulo Miral wrote in the AIM study. But the absence of a legal framework makes the personal costs of whistle-blowing very high. It is sometimes a “matter of life and death,” the study noted.

Tell that to the family of Dacer. The PR man never made his appointment to brief former President Fidel Ramos on scams involving government. He and driver Emmanuel Corbito were intercepted by 22 military agents in Makati. Blindfolded, then strangled, their bodies were burned in Indang, Cavite.

Thieves are lionized, not ostracized, here. Cash ushers them to first places at tables. Those in a position to adopt reforms are often the very persons whistles are blown at. Would Senators Ramon Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Gringo Honasan ever scrap the pork barrel? “Ti uwak  uray  adigos,  nagisit  lata,” an Ilocano proverb says. “Though a crow bathes, it remains black.”

They “should take a leave of absence pending formal investigation,” Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged. Inaction by those involved is buttressed by a culture of impunity. People bolt from those who rock the boat with harsh truths.

Jerusalem crucified its Whistle-blower.

* * *

E-mail: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com


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  • JLFS

    Ang nagyari ay patunay lang sa kasabihang “galit ang magnanakaw sa kapwa magnanakaw”. Pero ang COA na naatasang “constitutional whistleblower” galit din kaya o takot?

    • $16256071

      On a friendly note, kapag walang magagalit sa mga magnanakaw, paano pa mahuhuli ang mga ito? Kasabihan lang ito na palagay ko galing din sa mga magnanakaw para walang pumigil sa mga kawatan ng lipunan. Ang “culture of impunity” ay ‘di mamamatay. Kaya ok lang na magalit sa mga kawatan at umaksyon ng maingat laban sa kanila, dahil kung walang kaukulang aksyon magkakasakit ka sa puso sa sama ng loob.

  • perpetual7

    Worthy read. Good research work while treading between the truth and the seething recepients of the truth.

  • TGM_ERICK

    The problems with many of the whistle blowers is that they are thieves themselves. An honest to goodness spy network will do the job but who will fill up the network ?

    • panhase

      “an honest to goodness spy network will do the job”
      The problem is that spying always involves betraying people, peoples trust. It´s in the nature of this kind of work. There is no honest spy and no honest spy network.

      • TGM_ERICK

        We both have a common ground on spying.

    • Eustaquio Joven

      It takes a thief to catch a thief.

  • TGM_ERICK

    Take it slow, Napoles contributed 100 M to Pnoy’s party during the elections. I am sure there are also scammers in his party.Mas marami pa. Hehehe.

  • $16256071

    Take heed of Senator Santiago’s advice gentlemen-senators.

  • Estelito Braganza

    I strongly disagree with you in stating that ENS Pestano was a whistle blower and was killed because of that. The truth is ENS Pestano committed suicide, and this was corroborated by the PNP, NBI and the Navy. I really sympathize with the innocent Officers who were wrongly implicated for his death. This puts to shame the justice system in our country, the fact that it took like 10 plus years, for this case to be solved however because of money and politics was resurrected to the detriment of the innocent. Shameless!!!

  • Noel Noel Munro

    Sayang yung yung BROADBAND n $329 million bargain price sana yun para sa pinaka mabilis na BBand sa buong mundo. yung kagaya nyan dito sa bansa namin ay $3billion hindi pa tapos apat na taon wala pa s kalahati ang nakakabitan at mahal ang magiging singil $ 150 per month sa unlimited downloads, I mean sayang talaga yun.

  • jgl414567

    THE PEOPLE SHOULD PICKET CONGRESS AND THE SENATE AND ASK FOR THE HEADS OF ENRILE ET AL!

  • josh_alexei

    Mr. Mercado, we did actually pass a Legislation known as Whistle Blower Protection Act. This legislation will penalize any Government Official from taking reprisal or any official in Government agencies or controlled Corporation to Threaten, intimidate or get back to any one who exposed any wrongdoings in the workplace or any shenanigans. Also there is an Agency supported by sponsor and work with Police co-ordination to encourage TIPS anonymously and give rewards if the Tips resulted in arrests and convictions with one condition, the Tipster must remain ANONYMOUS because as soon as his identity is known he can be called to be witness and can no longer qualify for the Rewards..there is a process to claim for the rewards. check 222 tips.

    But we also have a very Comprehensive Access to information Act, which instead of seeing this Project is brought to you by Mayor so or so. you will see the Contract number, the phone to call if you wanted to have information about the project and it will not cost much if it can be produced in a normal course of Government Agency business and the actual cost if it need extra time to dig in the records.

    That is how the country’s most respected Daily, exposed in its Investigative Reporting the many Scandals that even our very courageous and diligent Auditor General misses and the ever vigilant Mounty could not uncover.



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