What does Benhur ‘Kilap Kilap’ Luy—the so-called pork barrel scam whistleblower—have in common with former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) budget officer George Rabusa and former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) election supervisor Lilian Radam?
For starters, they are all whistleblowers in high profile cases involving political foes of the Aquino administration. Because of their supposedly explosive “revelations”, they’ve all been made “state witnesses” and placed under the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Witness Protection Program (WPP). And interestingly, prior to their exposés, they were all facing criminal charges before a court of law.
In February 2011, Rabusa made headlines after accusing former Arroyo administration Defense chief Angelo Reyes and three other former AFP chiefs of staff of receiving millions of pesos as “pabaon” (send-off money) upon their retirement from the military.
But unknown to many, Rabusa himself was facing graft charges before the Sandiganbayan for three counts of perjury and unexplained wealth around seven years earlier in 2004.
Prosecutors claimed Rabusa acquired property and vehicles amounting to more than P43 million despite only having an annual salary of P275,000. According to the Office of the Ombudsman, his net worth increased from P618,000 in 1990 to P7.18 million in 2003.
His testimonies in the Senate, however, apparently allowed him to strike a deal with the DOJ under Secretary Leila de Lima, for the dropping of his cases before the Sandiganbayan after being made a state witness.
More recently, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also dismissed the plunder and graft charges filed by retired Commission on Audit (COA) auditor Arturo Besana and AFP Major Ernesto Angulo against Rabusa on the ground that the ex-AFP budget officer enjoys immunity as a state witness under the WPP.
Around seven months after Rabusa’s exposé, another controversy hit the front pages, this time, regarding the alleged poll fraud in favor of favor pro-Arroyo senatorial candidates in the 2007 elections.
Former South Cotabato poll supervisor Radam (together with ex-North Cotabato election supervisor Yogi Martirizar) claimed that former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos ordered them and other election supervisors to rig the 2007 votes in favor of senatorial candidates allied with the Arroyo administration.
But long before her revelation, the Comelec (under then chairman Jose Melo) had already adjudged Radam liable for electoral sabotage. Around the same time, similar charges were being prepared against Martirizar.
After the cases against Radam were filed in court, she (and Martirizar) went into hiding, surfacing four years later in 2011 as reformed whistleblowers.
Since they were both made state witnesses and placed under the WPP, the Pasay Regional Trial Court discharged Martirizar last July 2012 as an accused, essentially acquitting her of the electoral sabotages charges. As of this writing, the DOJ is also asking for the discharge of Radam in another electoral sabotage case.
Now comes Benhur Luy exposing the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam supposedly perpetrated by Janet Lim Napoles. Luy also implicated Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Gringo Honasan —all of whom (not coincidentally?) belong to opposite side of the Aquino administration’s political fence—in the bogus NGO scheme.
But what was lost in the din of public uproar is that early this year, the JLN employee-turned-whistleblower had already been charged by Napoles with qualified theft for pocketing P300,000 which she asked Luy to deposit in her bank account in December 2012. That the information (or charge sheet) was filed with the Pasig Regional Trial Court—which recently issued an arrest warrant against Luy—only goes to show that the DOJ prosecutors found that there was substantial evidence to prove that qualified theft was committed and that Luy was probably guilty of said crime.
What also makes Luy’s revelation about the pork barrel controversy highly dubious is that almost three months before his exposé, Napoles had written to President Noynoy Aquino, complaining about the alleged “shakedown” by Luy’s lawyer and a retired general, in cahoots with National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents.
This after Luy claimed he was kidnapped by Napoles’ brother, Reynald Lim. The charge of kidnapping filed by Luy’s parents against Napoles and Lim was, however, subsequently dismissed by the DOJ.
Despite the serious blows to Luy’s credibility, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima took him in as state witness and placed him under the government’s WPP. This even if there’s still no investigation or case against Napoles or the implicated senators whatsoever.
So has the DOJ become the refuge for scoundrels wishing to save their own skin? And are whistleblowers being prematurely granted immunity from prosecution by the DOJ as a reward for their exposés against the Aquino administration’s political enemies?