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‘Small-time’ whistle-blowers decry double standard

By: - Reporter / @mj_uyINQ
/ 08:46 AM February 19, 2014

VEILED ACCUSERS Three OFWs testify before the Senate investigating allegations of sexual harassment against labor and foreign affairs officials in the Middle East on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—A church leader and a whistle-blowers’ group on Tuesday criticized the government for supposedly giving special treatment to VIP “whisper-blowers” and neglecting the “little” people who expose a crime or corruption.

This after four overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)—who had revealed the sex-for-flight activities of some labor officials in the Middle East—appealed to President Aquino for attention to their cases.

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Angel, one of the OFWs who appeared at a Senate hearing last August, said at a church forum in Manila Tuesday that the government had not extended any help to them, in sharp contrast to the treatment accorded to VIP whistle-blowers.

“Nobody extended any help to us after we appeared in the Senate. Why were we not accepted into the Witness Protection Program? Why is this whistle-blower today being given VIP treatment by the government?” she said, referring to Ruby Tuason, a socialite who turned whistle-blower in the P10-billion pork barrel scam involving three senators, several congressmen, alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and several others.

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At the forum, Sandra Cam, president of the Whistle-blowers Association of the Philippines, said it was unacceptable how the administration appeared to give special treatment to those who spill the beans on its political enemies while ignoring “real” whistle-blowers like the four OFWs.

“If the whistle-blower is against the government, they are ignored. But if they can use you to pin down their political rivals, you will be treated like a VIP,” said Cam.

The three senators involved—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.—belong to the opposition.

Lawyer Melchor Magdamo, who blew the lid off anomalies in the Commission on Elections in 2010, said these so-called whistle-blowers should be called “whisper-blowers” as “they are attack dogs and have a political agenda.”

Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, called on the Aquino administration to treat those who expose malfeasance in government equally.

“It’s just right to run after all those who committed mistakes but the government should not be selective. Justice should not be selective,” he said.

Sister Mary John Mananzan, former chair of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, said she would meet with the group’s migrant worker partners and office on women’s gender to discuss assistance to the OFWs.

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“Assistance should be comprehensive, which should include livelihood, counseling and legal aid,” said Mananzan, adding that the labor officials linked to the sex-for-flight scheme must be prosecuted.

She said it was not enough that one of the accused was suspended for merely four months.

Labor attaché Mario Antonio, who was implicated in the sex-for-repatriation scandal, was sanctioned with a suspension for using vulgar and indecent language while talking to distressed OFWs in Riyadh and using an office-issued laptop to view pornography.

“It is not enough that he was suspended—this official must face trial,” Mananzan said.

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TAGS: Angel, labor officials, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), sex-for-flight whistle-blowers, VIP whistle-blowers, whistle blowers
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