and the Plight of Other “Whistle Blowers”
By Apolinario Villalobos
When I saw the photo of the late Marlene Garcia-Esperat who was murdered because she exposed the anomalies at the Department of Agriculture, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of devastation and palpitated with anger. She was so young and unfortunately, her ideals cut short her dreams. She exposed the anomalies at the Department of Agriculture which was then under Secretary Luis “Chito” Lorenzo whose cohorts were his Underscretary Joselyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante and three more personalities, involving the purchase of millions of pesos worth of fertilizer.
Marlene made the exposế when she left the Office of the Ombudsman where she was the Action Office of the resident Ombudsman of the Department of Agriculture. Not long after, she was silenced by a hired gunman right inside her home on the fateful 24th day of March, 2005, as she was obviously, unprotected. She should have been moving around with a security because of her exposếs, but she was not. At the time of her death, she was living with her family in the City of Tacurong, her birthplace. The proud parents are Luis and Paciencia Garcia.
The “whistle blowers” risk their career and security of their family after making the painful decision to spill out the proverbial beans of anomalies that they accidentally discover. Some of them make the crucial decision on their own volition while others had to be coaxed into cooperation, and even intimidated by eager prosecutors. Promises of security and financial assistance are made by the government, but are unfortunately, short-lived as the “agreement” had to be “renewed”.
Sandra Cam who stands out among the “whistle blowers” organized them for the convenience of the NGOs which are helping them. Also, to make them cohesive every time they make demands in one voice. Unfortunately, the last time that this group was heard was when Cam surfaced during the celebrated hearings of de Lima at the Senate….perhaps, only because, de Lima is her mortal enemy. The big question is where are the rest of them? Have they finally recanted their statements in exchange for big sums or unfortunately, silenced forever?
The “whistle blowers” are actually witnesses, who got tagged with such reference because they are supposed to have blown the whistle to alert the government about certain anomalies. But, for how long can they blow the whistle with the kind of government that we have? The expense for their protection is dependent on the budget of the concerned agencies, but the approval of which is also dependent on the whims of the Senate. Worse, the approval of the protection sometimes is granted long after witnesses has put their security in jeopardy when they divulged information at the hearing venue.
How many more Marlene Garcia-Esperats will make a sacrifice to make the government realize the loop-holes of its “witness protection program”? How could the Duterte administration use this program to enhance his drive against illegal drugs if prospective witnesses have lost their trust in such program? What is their chance of still standing alive and kicking after his six-year term? …AND, WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE DOING ABOUT IT?