10:31 PM July 22nd, 2013

By: Juan L. Mercado, July 22nd, 2013 10:31 PM

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.

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