‘Hello Garci’ witness urges Grace Poe to protect whistle-blowers
One of the principal whistle-blowers in the “Hello Garci” election cheating scandal on Friday called on Sen. Grace Poe to help fast-track the approval of a measure that would protect people who expose anomalies in the government.
Vidal Doble, a former military intelligence agent who leaked the “Hello Garci” recording, said people like him badly needed a whistle-blowers protection law that would provide them with a measure of security and some financial assistance after disclosing illegal activities.
Doble said this was important because many of the whistle-blowers continue to face hardships such as security concerns and difficulty in finding jobs as a result of their revelations. He said he would attend hearings on the bill if invited by the Senate.
The “Hello Garci” recording pertains to an allegedly wiretapped conversation between then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and an election commissioner identified as “Garci,” during which the former asked the poll official about her lead in the race for the presidency against Fernando Poe Jr.
Its disclosure prompted Arroyo to apologize publicly for a lapse in judgment, explaining that she called people only to ensure that her votes were protected.
No closure, no prosecution
But Doble also lamented that the election scandal had had no closure and the major players in it had not been prosecuted for electoral fraud.
“There’s no closure here because we did not reach the point where we were able to hold responsible those who cheated in the 2004 elections,” he said in a phone interview.
He said those who neglected the poll fraud investigation should be held liable as well.
He said Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes was one of those who neglected the case, despite the fact that Arroyo’s rival Fernando Poe Jr. had been Brillantes’ client.
“He should have run after the Garci boys and filed cases against them,” he said.
He added that even the generals implicated in the scandal seemed to have been forgotten as well.
Doble said whistle-blowers sacrifice a lot to right the wrongs committed.
According to him, he continues to struggle after being discharged from the military. He said he still did not have a steady source of income, finding it hard to land a stable job because of security concerns. He worries because he has children to care for, he said. Adding to his woes was the denial of his application for a permit to carry a firearm late last year.
Doble and other whistle-blowers who came out during the Arroyo administration had been looking forward to the passage of a protection bill.
During the 15th Congress, the House approved the bill on final reading, but its counterpart measure stalled in the Senate.
The bill would grant protection and financial rewards to whistle-blowers at various stages of participation, from their admission into a whistle-blower protection program up to the filing of a case and the completion of their testimony.
If their revelations lead to the filing of cases of plunder, forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth, bribery, malversation and the like, they would also be entitled to an additional reward of 10 percent of the actual amount recovered by final judgment.
But the bill also provides harsh penalties for false whistle-blowers, including requiring them to return the financial rewards they received under the program.
The measure also states that those who would coerce or compel a whistle-blower to give misleading information would be penalized with imprisonment of not less than the penalty imposed against the person they falsely accused of a crime.
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