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There’s the Rub

Profile in courage

/ 12:42 AM February 12, 2014

For all the trials and tribulations associated with being a whistle-blower, here more than elsewhere, we have not lacked for heroic ones. That is no small blessing.

We’ve had three of them over the last 14 years.

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The first was Chavit Singson, who came out one fine day announcing his eagerness to testify against his former buddy, Erap. The night before had not been very fine for him; he had found himself in an altercation with traffic cops whom he suspected of being there to ambush him. He figured Atong Ang had won, or stolen, Erap’s heart away from him, which brought with it lethal consequences. He would tell all, he said from the bosom of the Church where he had sought sanctuary, even if he had to share a jail cell with him afterward. The result was Erap’s impeachment and trial. The result, too, was that Chavit never shared in Erap’s fate, he only shared in Manny Pacquiao’s fortune.

The second was Jun Lozada, who burst into the scene in equally dramatic fashion. After several dark nights of the soul in Hong Kong, he decided to come home and tell the Senate all he knew about the NBN-ZTE scam notwithstanding the huge threats to life, limb, and future he knew would be forthcoming. Those threats, particularly to life, presented themselves to him immediately after he got off the plane at the airport, falling as he did into the hands of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Or into the hands of people he thought were his friends and would protect him but were instead the then First Couple’s bought lackeys who were willing to sell him for not a few pieces of silver.

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He was driven around for a couple of hours before his captors—which was what they were—decided to bring him out of the cold alive. There is no doubt in my mind, based on stories I’ve heard about similar kidnappings during martial law and well after, that during those couple of hours Lozada’s life truly hung in the balance. It could have gone either way; they could have made him disappear forever.

He went on to testify at the Senate, and though he never got Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo impeached—she hid behind such things as “executive privilege”—he dented her enough to make the rest of her rule miserable for her, quite apart from the country.

Comes now Ruby Tuason, who has also come in from the cold, a godsend, or hulog ng langit, like the others. No one expected her to, least of all the people, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile chief of them, she has accused of conniving with Janet Napoles to rip off Filipino taxpayers big-time.

Do I believe her when she says what has driven her to do the unthinkable—which is turn her back on old friends, or go against the culture that says loyalty is the pinnacle of virtue, walang iwanan, through thick and thin, through heaven and hell, through glorya and ka-erap-an—is having suffered agonizing pangs of conscience? Well, I am at least willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The lawyers of Benhur Luy and the other whistle-blowers are of course a little apprehensive, not really knowing what made her experience a change of heart; she might yet prove to be a Trojan Horse whose purpose is to weaken rather than strengthen the prosecution’s case against the implicated senators. But you have to ask how. It’s too shrewd and intricate a plot to have been hatched by the accused. I do know that was the plot in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold,” to trot out a seemingly formidable witness whose testimony would eventually be debunked by showing him to be a flawed and unreliable lout. But I don’t know that the accused, or their handlers, read John le Carre. For that matter, I don’t know that they read.

In any case, the psychology rings true. The personal cost to Tuason of her coming out to damn Jinggoy and Enrile is enormous. And damn them she has, her account of whom she spoke with, how much money she gave them, where and when, being too detailed and too definite to have been concocted. Easy to lie in broad strokes, not so easy to do so with all the shadings. What Tuason has done is to open herself up to all sorts of nasty judgments, at least in private where it matters, if not in public where appearances do—a back-stabber, an ingrate (walang utang na loob), a thoroughly unscrupulous individual. Only the most compelling reasons could compel someone to do that.

Fear of course is one such compelling reason. Fortunately, not all fears have to do with the fear of getting jailed. Some fears have to do with the shame of what one has done falling on the heads of one’s children and children’s children, branding them with the stigma forever. Some fears have to do with the loss of one’s soul, the wickedness of the deed spreading through it like cancer and overrunning it completely. Some fears have to do with having to face oneself, “I was alone, I was so ashamed to myself and I said I could not continue like this: I made a mistake and had to tell the truth.” Tuason cites all of the above.

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In that respect, Tuason is a lot more like Lozada than Singson. Singson came out only because he was afraid to die physically, Lozada and Tuason came out because they were afraid to die spiritually. Happily for Tuason, she has come out to say her fitful piece at a time when there is a president who is willing to protect her in every way, not harm her in every way. Even more happily for the country, she has come out at a time when her word has every chance to redeem not just her from the error of her ways but also her fellow Filipinos from the deviltry of wayward men. More than Singson and Lozada, Tuason is in a position to convict the “convictable,” to give this country a sense of moving forward, to give this country a sense of justice.

Not all profiles in courage need be marred by futility.

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TAGS: Chavit Singson, column, Conrado de Quiros, Jun Lozada, Ruby Tuason, Whistle blowers
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