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11 April 2011

Congress will pass Whistleblowers Act

Determined to pursue anti-corruption policy reforms to promote good governance, Rep. Jaun Edgardo M. Angara expressed confidence that congress, in its resumption of sessions on May, would definitely pass the Whistleblowers Act and the additional benefits for state witnesses.

"I am elated to note that both proposals, contained in several bills, are now being finalized by separate technical working groups formed by Chairman Neil Tupas, Jr. of the House Committee on Justice," said Angara, the principal author of HBs 419 and 452 (on whistleblowers) and HB 473 (additional benefits for state witnesses).

Angara, likewise, noted that the Tupas panel never lost track of its mandate, particularly on the consideration of vital priority bills even as the panel was deliberating of the controversial impeachment case of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

"It's a matter of determination and time management," Angara noted.

Aside from Angara (who is also chairman of the vital committee on Higher and Technical Education), authors of similar bills on the whistleblower measure include Reps. Teddy Casino and Colmenares (HB
132), Rep. Teodoro (HB 1834), Reps. Rufus and M. Rodriguez (HB 2110), Rep. Arenas (HB 2471) and Rep. Quisumbing (HB2675).

The government, Angara stressed, needs a new institutional mechanism for integrity and accountability to eliminate scandals and restore credibility in public service.

"The litmus test for such reforms is the government's treatment of whistleblowers," Angara said.

"Those 'who blow the whistle' are most often fired and become ostracized from friends and co-workers. They are accused of having a grievance with their employer or trying to profit from their
accusations," Angara said.

The fear generated by such retaliation, Angara added, creates a chilling effect on the willingness of the people to come forward. Thus, he added, the need to strengthen accountability and protecting the right of employees to speak out about wrongdoing on the job.

On the other hand, Angara pointed out that the protection of victims and witnesses are also an essential part of the fight against criminality (aside from corruption cases).

Thus, the Aurora lawmaker is expecting the early passage of HB 473 or its substitute measure, to counter the increased risk of witnesses and victims being subjected to intimidation which results in the failure of the criminal justice system to bring offenders to trial and face justice because witnesses are effectively prevented from testifying freely and truthfully.

Hence, Angara said there's a need for a law protecting the confidentiality of the victim's and witness' address and telephone numbers during a trial or hearing related to a criminal prosecution to ensure their safety.

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