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Penalty in whistleblowers’ bill may cause chilling effect – Deputy Ombudsman

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Penalty in whistleblowers’ bill may cause chilling effect – Deputy Ombudsman

/ 06:45 PM February 12, 2014

Gerard Mosquera. INQUIRER photo

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed measure protecting whistleblowers seemed a double-edged sword after it was hit for causing a “chilling effect.”

This is because section 21 of the bill imposes a penalty on whistleblowers making false accusations against public officials.

During the House justice committee hearing on Wednesday, Deputy Ombudsman Gerard Mosquera said the section might cause a “chilling effect” on whistleblowers who feared retribution for their actions if the cases are junked.

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The penalty of imprisonment on erring whistleblowers depends on the penalty as well on the government official the whistleblower is accusing of a crime.

This means if the whistleblower accused an official of plunder, the penalty for plunder would also apply to the errant whistleblower.

“If the penalty is for plunder, wala nang haharap na whistleblower kasi matatakot sila na balikan sila,” Mosquera said.

(If the penalty is for plunder, whistleblowers may not come forward due to fear that they would face reprisal.)

Justice department assistant secretary Zabedin Asis added that the penalty must be commensurate to the crime.

“I don’t think giving a false testimony is tantamount to a plunder. There is a principle that the penalty imposed must be commensurate to the crime committed,” he said.

Committee chair Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. said the panel would hold an executive session to thresh out the controversial provision.

But he assured that section 24 of the bill provides a penalty as well of not less than six to 12 years imprisonment or a fine of no more than P100,000 against those who commit reprisal against whistleblowers.

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The House panel approved in the committee level the bills on the protection and rewards of whistleblowers as well as the strengthening of the witness protection program.

The committee would hold an executive meeting to resolve the controversial provisions before putting the bills for plenary debate.

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