FOR Mary Ong alias Rosebud, being a government witness can be frustrating.
She said state witnesses who are placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) are soon forgotten and left on their own after they have spilled the beans.
“A few seconds of stardom can turn your life upside down. A few seconds of stardom versus a lifetime of misery,” Ong told The Manila Times.
She warned other state witnesses to prepare for a “lifetime of misery.”
Ong said she is barred from making comments because she remains under the WPP.
“The WPP might remove me from the program,” she added.
Ong was the principal government witness in the cases involving former Philippine National Police chief and former senator Panfilo Lacson, including the alleged rubout of 13 members of the dreaded Kuratong Baleleng Gang in the mid-1990s.
Lacson is now the Presidential Adviser on Rehabilitation and Recovery.
When asked if her experience as state witness was worth it, Ong replied in the negative, saying witnesses like her are usually left “on their own.”
She said former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, who accused Vice President Jejomar Binay of committing several irregularities when the now Vice President was Makati mayor, may suffer the same fate.
“Is it going to be worth it? No matter how brave you become to spill the beans, you risk yourself into more pain, more harm and worse in the end, you are left alone out there hung out to dry,” Ong added.
“In the end, what do you gain? Were you able to change anything? You sometimes get so frustrated that it seems you are the only one who can see all the evil one can do. And no matter how clear you have unmasked him, the majority remains blinded,” she said.
Another former government witness on the jueteng (illegal numbers game)expose, Sandra Cam, expressed similar frustrations, noting that it was difficult for her and her fellow “whistleblowers” to be given real protection when the subjects of their exposes are government officials themselves.
“When I presented proof about the jueteng involvement of [a former police general], like when I showed bank records of the amount I deposited to his bank account, did anything happen? Nothing,” Cam said.
She added that witnesses against government officials are treated differently from persons who testify against perceived enemies of sitting officials.
Cam cited the witnesses on the sex for flight cases against certain Labor officials abroad, alleged anomalies at the Bureau of Corrections and other cases. She claimed that action against government officials was slow but when political rivals are involved, the action was quick.
“Whistleblowers against the government are very rarely given protection but when a whistleblower is against their perceived political enemies, they act quickly like in the case of Mercado,” she pointed out.
Cam also cited the case of pork barrel scam principal witness Benhur Luy whom she described as a “coach whistleblower.”
“He immediately became a government witness although he lacked strong evidence to back up his claims,” she noted.
Cam and her group have been pushing for the enactment of a whistleblowers law to ensure protection and compensation for future witnesses.
With regard to Mercado, she said it appears that the former Makati City vice mayor’s “revenge” against Binay is politically motivated.
She added that Mercado was only “sourgraping” because Binay broke his promise to make him mayor.
Cam said the Senate probe of the alleged overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center is nothing but a moro-moro (farce).
“LP [Liberal Party] stalwarts were up and about to rescue [Senate President Franklin] Drilon. It will not prosper because Drilon is not a threat [to the administration]. That’s how I see it,” she explained.
The Senate President has been implicated in the allegedly overpriced construction of the Iloilo Convention Center in Iloilo City, Iloilo, Drilon’s home province.