By Ellson Quismorio
Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate called on the House leadership Sunday to fast track the passage of two bills from the Makabayan Bloc that aim to broaden the protection and benefits given by the government to so-called “whistleblowers.”
Zarate was referring to House Bill (HB) no.4387, or the proposed Act for protection, security, and benefits of whistleblowers, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes; and HB no.4388, or the proposed Act strengthening the witness protection, security and benefit program, amending for the purpose Republic Act No.6981, otherwise known as the “Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act,” and providing additional funds therefor.
“If enacted the bills would also prevent double standards and special treatment as well as penalized false witnesses and whistleblowers,” said Zarate, who is a House Deputy Minority Leader.
Both measures have been pending before the House Committee on Justice since September 2019. The 302-member chamber is scheduled to go on a lengthy summer recess starting March 11, it should be noted.
Each bill listed the six-member Makabayan Bloc as its authors. The measures’ intent is to encourage more witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward to expose crime and corruption.
“It is sad that one of the witnesses on the ‘GCTA scam’ got cold feet and backed out, while another was killed, but with the enactment of HB 4387 and 4388, they would be a whole new mechanism for their safety among others,” said Zarate.
The GCTA mess which dominated headlines in August to September 2019 referred to the alleged mis-implementation of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) rule for convicts.
This nearly led to the early release of convicted rapist-killer, former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez.
“These measures will protect whistleblowers like Immigration Officer Allison “Alex” Chiong, who received death threats after he exposed that Chinese nationals are allegedly paying immigration officers to have a smooth entry in the Philippines. It will also encourage other whistleblowers to come out and expose other similar cases of graft and corruption and other crimes and offenses committed especially by government officials and employees,” added the Davao-based solon.
“If the Duterte administration is truly sincere in its corruption drive and is sincerely looking for the truth then it would certify these bills as urgent and move for their immediate approval,” Zarate said.
Leyte 3rd district Rep. Ching Veloso chairs the Justice committee.