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Exposing wrongdoing: The uncertain fate of whistleblowers in PH


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MANILA, Philippines—Through the years, the Philippines noticed witnesses blow the lid off authorities wrongdoing and the completely different fates that befell them—loss of life, disappearance or oblivion.

On Sept. 25, the newest to blow the whistle on huge corruption was Krizle Grace Mago, an govt of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp., who admitted that the corporate swindled the federal government by promoting broken face shields with tampered dates of manufacturing, disappeared.

READ: ‘Incommunicado’: Krizle Mago’s sudden disappearance

The day earlier, Sept. 24, she requested for time to resolve whether or not to be positioned underneath Senate safety.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated the essence of whistleblowing can’t be “overstated” as a result of it was the “single most important way that could bring wrongdoing to light.”

READ: TIMELINE: Still no sign of Mago after damning testimony vs Pharmally

Lawyer Rodel Taton, dean of the Graduate School of Law of San Sebastian College-Recoletos, advised INQUIRER.net that there might be “so many reasons as to how Mago went incommunicado.”

He stated it was potential that she was fearful, pressured and went into hiding to keep away from additional testifying. “She knows how serious the implications of her testimony [are], especially against the company where she worked,” he stated.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra just lately disclosed that the National Bureau of Investigation began monitoring the situation of Mago. The House of Representatives additionally issued a subpoena for her look.

Taton stated lawmakers and the general public can solely “surmise on the reasons” for Mago’s disappearance, but it surely was sure that her testimony carried weight “it can be used to ferret out the truth.”

In the Philippines, Mago was not the primary to present a damning revelation. While their fates differed, different whistleblowers’ exposés make clear authorities wrongdoings—from killings to the siphoning of billions in public monies.

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Graphic by Ed Lustan

READ: ‘Still missing:’ Pharmally’s Mago a no-show in Senate probe

In October 2020, Ignacio attended a Senate investigation to make clear the so-called “pastillas” scheme on the Bureau of Immigration (BI). He was one of 19 officers dealing with a graft case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

He recognized Marc Red Mariñas, a former BI official, as one of the masterminds of the scheme, saying that he was the “ring leader”. Mariñas denied the allegation.

Ignacio additionally claimed that these charged by the NBI had a contact in the Ombudsman, implying that it was potential they’d go scot-free.

READ: ‘Pastillas’ masterminds claim to have ‘contact’ in Ombudsman’s office — whistleblower

Later, the Ombudsman suspended 45 BI officers in relation to the “pastillas” scheme, together with Ignacio. Sen. Risa Hontiveros requested the Ombudsman to spare Ignacio, who already turned a state witness.

Ignacio additionally utilized for the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) which seeks to encourage potential witnesses to testify earlier than a courtroom or quasi-judicial physique “by protecting him from reprisals and from economic dislocation.”

In July 2020, Keith, an official of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), resigned as a result of of “widespread corruption”. He later testified in a Senate investigation.

He was the one who stated that P15 billion in PhilHealth funds was “stolen” by a “syndicate” which consisted of the company’s govt committee. He later named Health Secretary Francisco Duque III because the “godfather” of the “mafia”.

READ: P15 billion went to PhilHealth ‘syndicate’ – whistleblower

Duque denied the allegation, saying that it was “absolutely malicious and without basis.” “I do not wish to dignify that allegation,” he stated.

In August 2020, Keith and two different witnesses—Alejandro Cabading and Etrobal Laborte—have been granted immunity and safety by the Senate. Later, the Senate additionally requested the DOJ to put the three in the WPP.

Keith’s revelations led to investigations and the creation of a gaggle tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte with uncovering the extent of corruption in PhilHealth.

In October 2020, the group filed malversation and graft instances in opposition to officers, together with resigned PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales.

Morales filed a cyberlibel criticism in opposition to Keith, saying the witness’ allegations severely affected his household.

In February 2020, Hontiveros revealed that corrupt BI officers took bribes from Chinese people for hassle-free entry into the Philippines. Chiong testified that masterminds of the pastillas scheme amassed an estimated P40 million.

The scheme concerned bribery of as little as P10,000 rolled like a wrapped pastillas, a neighborhood sweet, in trade for the unchecked entry of undocumented Chinese nationals.

Chiong, an immigration officer, testified in a Senate investigation and stated that earlier and current officers of the BI led teams which facilitated the arrival of Chinese people.

READ: Whistleblower tags BI’s ex-officials, current staff in ‘pastillas’ scheme

He stated BI officers began the scheme to deal with a lower in salaries, saying that these concerned determined to supply “VIP services” and “convenient and seamless immigration.”

Chiong was positioned in the WPP.

In October 2016, Lascañas, a police officer who was described by one other witness, Edgar Matobato, as “like a brother” to the President, denied allegations of involvement in the Davao Death Squad (DDS) throughout a Senate investigation.

However, in February 2017, he retracted his denial and linked the President to the reported killings in Davao City, saying that “the existence of the DDS is real.”

He stated the primary members of the DDS have been officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the group additionally commissioned the companies of former New People’s Army fighters.

With his confessions, the Senate once more opened the investigation. However, in May 2017, the committee stated the DDS “did not exist” and there was no proof of a government-sponsored coverage to kill people with alleged hyperlinks to unlawful medicine.

In June 2017,  a courtroom ordered his arrest for the collection of assaults in opposition to broadcaster Jun Pala who was killed in 2003. It was final April 2017 when he left the Philippines for “safety”.

READ: Davao Death Squad witness Arturo Lascañas leaves PH for safety

In September 2016, Matobato attended a Senate investigation and insisted that the Davao Death Squad (DDS), a vigilante group reportedly accountable for abstract killings in Davao City, existed, saying he was half of the group.

He alleged that Duterte, then mayor of Davao City, instructed the group to kill individuals. He stated it was Duterte himself who provided them the job: “Our work was to kill criminals. Those were the people we killed every day.”

READ: ‘I saw Duterte kill 8 times’ –Matobato

However, Martin Andanar, head of the Presidential Communications Office, denied Matobato’s allegation, saying that he doesn’t assume the President is succesful of giving these orders.

He was not given authorities safety as then Senate President Koko Pimentel stated he denied the request for protecting custody as a result of there’s “no rule to justify it. There’s even no showing that his life or safety is threatened.”

In October 2016, he surrendered in Camp Crame in Quezon City because the Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued a warrant of arrest for a case of unlawful possession of firearms that was filed in opposition to him in 2014.

Matobato, in March 2017, posted bail for a annoyed homicide case that was filed in opposition to him on the Digos City RTC. It was additionally that point when the Panabo RTC issued a warrant of arrest for a kidnapping case. He’s been hiding since then.

It was in 2012 when Makilala, former assistant head of the Bureau of Corrections’ (BuCor) bids and awards committee, uncovered alleged unlawful actions – prostitution and corruption – contained in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Prior to this, he sought safety after alleging then BuCor chief Gaudencio Pangilinan was concerned in wrongdoing contained in the NBP, together with irregularities in use of workplace sources and the particular remedy of distinguished prisoners.

READ: Guard who accused ex-BuCor chief of graft killed

In February 2017, Makilala, who has since been assigned to the Davao Penal Colony, was killed in Carmen, Davao del Norte whereas inside a bus. The killers fled and stay unidentified.

From December 2012 to March 2013, Luy, an worker of Janet Lim Napoles, who had been convicted of plunder,  illegally detained him to forestall him from exposing the theft of P10 billion in public funds coursed by means of lawmakers’ pork barrel.

In 2013, Luy uncovered the rip-off, saying lawmakers’ pork barrel funds have been stolen by means of bogus nongovernment organizations created by Napoles.

In June 2014, the Ombudsman indicted Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla in relation to the rip-off. Revilla, nonetheless, was not convicted.

READ: Benhur Luy: ‘Why is the gov’t turning against us?’

The instances of Enrile and Estrada are nonetheless pending whereas Napoles was already convicted in a number of instances associated to the rip-off.

In 2015, the Makati RTC convicted Napoles of illegally detaining Luy. The Court of Appeals (CA), nonetheless, reversed the choice, saying that “the quantum of proof required in this case has not been met.”

In February 2008, after declining an invite from the Senate to testify on the $329 million nationwide broadband community contract with Chinese firm ZTE Corp., Lozada arrived in the Philippines.

He later claimed that folks near the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had him kidnapped to forestall him from changing into a witness.

Lozada filed a petition for a writ of amparo associated to the alleged kidnapping, however the Court of Appeals didn’t grant it, saying that he doesn’t want safety as a result of authorities forces didn’t try and have him kidnapped.

Back then, he alleged that then First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, former Commission on Elections head Benjamin Abalos, and former authorities officers took bribes from Chinese officers for the deal.

In May 2005, the late Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz offered Mayor, a confessed jueteng operator, as a witness in a Senate investigation.

Mayor stated he bribed then Pampanga consultant and son of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Juan Miguel Arroyo, three congressmen, and the chief of the PNP. They denied the allegations.

In February 2010, Mayor was killed in Pasay City by motorcycle-riding gunmen. He was declared lifeless on arrival on the San Juan de Dios Hospital.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines stated Mayor, his son-in-law Alan Castro, and his nephew Rommel Mayor have been on their means residence when the assault transpired in Pasay City.

The head of the Media Advisory Council of the Marcos dictatorship in the Nineteen Seventies, Mijares was aware about the within workings of the Marcos regime. He wrote the e-book “The Conjugal Dictatorship” about how the Marcos couple abused their energy and stole public funds.

It was stated that regardless of Marcos’ bribe supply of $100,000, Mijares testified on the United States House subcommittee on worldwide organizations, which heard instances of human rights violations in Korea and the Philippines.

READ: Family secret: How Primitivo Mijares disappeared

In 1977, he returned to the Philippines. He was final seen boarding a flight residence with a recognized Marcos intelligence agent however had by no means been heard from since. The physique of his youngest son was later discovered in Antipolo with indicators of extreme torture.

Protecting witnesses

In the Philippines, Republic Act 6981 or the Witness Protection Security and Benefit Act seeks to “encourage a person who has witnessed or has knowledge of the commission of a crime to testify before a court or quasi-judicial body, or before an investigating authority, by protecting him from reprisals and from economic dislocation.”

The DOJ stated the next might be admitted into this system:

  • Any one who has data of or information on the fee of against the law and has testified or is testifying or is keen to testify.
  • A witness in a congressional investigation, upon the advice of the legislative committee the place his testimony is required and with the approval of the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, because the case could also be.
  • A witness who participated in the fee of against the law and who wishes to be a state witness.
  • An accused who’s discharged from an information or prison criticism by the courtroom in order that he could also be a state witness.

An applicant, nonetheless, is not going to be allowed admission in this system if:

  • The offense in which his testimony shall be used shouldn’t be a grave felony.
  • His testimony can’t be considerably corroborated in its materials factors.
  • He or any member of his household throughout the second diploma of consanguinity or affinity has not been threatened with loss of life or bodily harm or there is no such thing as a chance that he shall be killed, compelled, intimidated, harassed or corrupted to forestall him from testifying or to testify falsely or evasively as a result of or on account of his testimony.
  • If the applicant is a regulation enforcement officer even when he’ll testify in opposition to different regulation enforcement officers. The rapid members of the applicant’s household could, nonetheless, be admitted into this system.

The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights had stated “international instruments recognize the importance of whistleblowers and require or encourage states to adopt measures to protect disclosure.”

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