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Twin laws to reinforce antigraft system

09:26 PM January 02, 2014

We hail the honorable senators for passing the Senate’s version of the freedom of information (FOI) bill. But even as this is a step forward in our people’s quest for transparency, a parallel measure should also be enacted to empower well-meaning individuals and encourage them to expose corruption. And we can have such measure if Congress finally passes the long-overdue whistle-blowers bill.

In a sense, while an FOI law will serve as the taxpayers’ (external public) authority to look into the affairs of their government, the whistle-blowers law can serve as the insiders’ (internal public) protective vest that should give them the courage to expose bureaucratic irregularities.

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The most recent corruption scandals to have rocked public sensibilities were exposed by whistle-blowers. In a way, it can be said that without the whistle-blowers, many cases filed in the Office of the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan can’t prosper at all. And insiders’ exposés are usually considered very reliable given the commonsensical assumption that “Nobody knows better than the people inside.”

But considering the manner these squealers are currently being treated and the speed (which is snail-paced) their cases are being processed, it is unlikely that more well-meaning souls will be able to muster the courage and enthusiasm to come out in the open and expose anomalies in government. What has happened to Jun Lozada, George Rabusa and Sandra Cam, to name a few, could dissuade  would-be whistle-blowers in the future—for ours is indeed a culture of impunity brought about by a weak system of laws, a prosecution/judicial system of questionable probity, and an inadequate witness protection, security and benefit program.

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Thus, hand in hand with the FOI law, the passage of a whistle-blowers act would lay down the foundation of an effective system of combating corruption in government even beyond this administration—a lasting legacy Congress and President Aquino can hand down to the next generation.

—ROGELIO P. MONTEALTO,  provincial budget officer, PEDRO D. RAMIREZ JR., OIC-provincial treasurer, BERNADETTE R. ORDOÑEZ, provincial accountant,

Whistle-Blowers of the Province

of Zamboanga del Sur,

c/o Vera Cruz Legal & Accounting Office,

6 Onyx St., Northview I,

Batasan Hills, Diliman, QC

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TAGS: corruption, freedom of information bill, letters, whistle-blowers act
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