Whistle-blowers’ Vindication?

by Juan L. Mercado

“You shall know the truth. And the truth shall make you mad.” That one-liner by scientist Aldous Huxley sums up the reaction of most people to the Inquirer’s selection of six whistle-blowers as the collective “Filipino of the Year” for 2013. Three days after the announcement, they linked former senator Ramon Revilla Sr. to the metastasizing pork barrel scam.

The Inquirer accolade “honored Filipinos who’ve made the biggest positive impact on the life of the nation in the year just past.” Take a bow, Benhur Luy, Mary Ariene Baltazar, Merlina Suñas, Gertrudes Luy, Marina Sula and Simonette Briones.

They were shown on the Inquirer front page wearing Witness Protection Program bulletproof vests.

Luy, 32, is a long-haired former medical technologist who meticulously documented the pork barrel scam at the vortex of Congress’ most damaging scandal since it opened in 1907. To date, six senators, 24 congressmen and assorted officials and civilians face charges of swapping pork barrel funds for cuts ranging from 19 up to 60 percent of the allocations.

Revilla Sr., who was born in 1927, was not among those accused. But Luy again proved surgically precise. He told the Inquirer that between 2003 and 2004, Revilla Sr. funneled P35 million of his pork barrel allocation to local government units in Clarin, Misamis Oriental (P10 million); San Quintin, Pangasinan (P5 million); Porac, Pampanga (P5 million); Siniloan, Laguna (P5 million); San Juan, Leyte (P5 million); and Dawis, Bohol (P5 million).

Luy said the company used in implementing the projects for the LGUs was Jo Chris Trading, “and we delivered Foliar Fertilizer.” Jo Chris is Napoles’ main trading firm named after her daughter. Luy added that he, Napoles, and her husband Jaime used to call on Revilla Sr. in his Senate office.

In his privilege speech, Revilla Jr. said his signatures on documents held as evidence were forged. Luy said all letter-requests from the senator were original and the signatures there were “all his.” Like father, like son?

All these focus attention on the hard slog by whistle-blowers of assorted repute, from mayhem to broader recognition. Are we finally heeding what the 9th International Anti-Corruption meeting in South Africa urged, that “governments must create an environment that encourages, instead of penalizes, citizens who denounce venality”?

Remember banker Clarissa Ocampo? She told the impeachment court that Joseph Estrada signed the notorious “Jose Velarde” account, which she refused to certify. Threats cascaded in.

Auditor Heidi Mendoza resigned a cushy Asian Development Bank job to appear before Congress. There, she confirmed her documentation of the P510-million theft by the military comptroller’s office. And Gen. Carlos Garcia ended up in the clink. A partisan Commission on Appointments refuses to confirm, up to now, her appointment as audit commissioner.

Former Manila Chronicle columnist Primitivo Mijares was one of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ chief propagandists. He later wrote a book on the “conjugal dictatorship” of Ferdinand and Imelda, and testified against them before the US Congress. He disappeared in 1977 en route to the Philippines. His 15-year-old son was later found murdered.

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down,” the Filipino axiom warns. In 1997, ensign Philip Pestaño bucked the misuse of Navy boats to haul illegal lumber and drugs. He was found shot in his cabin. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales reinstituted murder charges and dismissed 10 officers.

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

We have no monopoly on this vice. In Russia, Judge Viktor Danilkin handed down a 6-year sentence on imprisoned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in a verdict he did not write. It was shoved down his throat by President Vladimir Putin’s aides.

Filipinos recall “Deep Throat.” In 1972, this whistle-blower slipped to the Washington Post data on White House involvement in the Watergate scandal. The uproar led to jail terms for five White House officials.

“I resign as president of the United States,” Richard Nixon wrote in a one-sentence letter. Vanity Fair magazine, 31 years later, reported that “Deep Throat” was former Federal Bureau of Investigation associate director Mark Felt. The Post’s executive editor during Watergate, Benjamin Bradlee, confirmed the report.

In August 2013, the Inquirer revealed that the “Deep Throat” behind its 1996 award-winning exposé on the graft-ridden pork barrel, then called the Countrywide Development Fund, was the late Marikina Rep. Romeo Candazo.

On a paper napkin, Candazo illustrated to three Inquirer editors exactly how much, in the form of “standard” amounts, members of Congress and other officials got from projects funded with the pork barrel. Kickbacks were “SOP” (standard operating procedure) among legislators.

They ranged from 19 to 52 percent of the cost of each project, which varied from dredging, riprapping, asphalting and concreting to construction of school buildings. Other sources of kickbacks that Candazo identified were public funds intended for medicines and textbooks. “He was the original whistle-blower on the pork scam.”

“We say in this nation that we are looking for people with honesty, integrity, drive and dedication,” an anonymous whistle-blower blogged. “And then when we find such people, we take them out and whip them.”

Here, inaction by those involved is buttressed by a culture of impunity. Jerusalem also crucified its Whistle-blower.

E-mail: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com

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