10 Most Controversial Filipino Whistleblowers
SPOT.ph remembers the names and faces of those who dared to speak up and change the course of history.
In the wake of Heidi Mendoza’s and George Rabusa’s explosive revelations, SPOT.ph takes a look back at some of the local personalities who have come forward to reveal (what they alleged to be) the truth.
Saksi video: Heidi Mendoza testifies against Carlos Garcia
The whistle-blower: Former auditor of the Commission on Audit.
The situation: Following the filing of plunder charges against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo decided in 2004 to look into irregularities in military transactions. He handpicked Heidi Mendoza to lead the investigation team because he saw her as "a person who not only has integrity but competence as well." According to Inquirer.net, he recalled that a team led by Mendoza previously submitted a "complete" and "thorough" audit of the Makati government, despite supposedly receiving death threats and being harassed.
The revelation: Mendoza kicked off February of this year by testifying at the House of Representatives that there was strong evidence against Garcia, contrary to the government prosecutor’s stand. From a transaction that involved a check worth P200 million, she said her team found P50 million unaccounted for.
Driven by her belief in the evidence against Garcia, she and the state prosecutors even promised to run naked along the streets of Quezon City if his case was dismissed. Despite fearing for her family’s safety, she said she decided to testify "out of (her) commitment to (her) responsibility as a public auditor."
Balitanghali report on George Rabusa’s "pabaon" revelations
The whistle-blower: From 1999 to 2002, retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa served as the budget head of the Office of the Armed Forces' Deputy Chief of Staff for Comptrollership under then military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.
The situation: During a Senate inquiry on the plea bargain agreement between state prosecutors and Garcia, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada presented Rabusa, who claimed that high-ranking military officials had taken home millions of pesos of ill-gotten wealth over the years.
The revelation: Rabusa opened a can of worms with his surprise appearance at the Senate on January 27. He claimed that in 2001, he personally delivered a pabaon (send-off) gift worth at least P50 million to then AFP Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes’ quarters at Camp Aguinaldo. Aside from the pabaon, Reyes allegedly received P5 million every month during his tenure as the AFP chief. Rabusa also alleged that two other former AFP chiefs, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, received "start-up" money worth around P10 million. He admitted he took home about P500,000 from the funds-not the P50 million he was earlier accused of.
In response to Rabusa’s claims, Reyes said he "(does) not remember accepting" the pabaon. He later charged Rabusa and Estrada with graft. On the morning of February 8, he reportedly shot himself in the chest in front of his mother’s grave at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina.
Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada Jr.
Take a look back at Jun Lozada’s revelations
The whistleblower: Lozada is the former chief executive officer of the Philippine Forest Corporation. According to GMA News, he served as a technical consultant to then Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri on the controversial national broadband network (NBN) project.
The situation: On February 5, 2008, Lozada returned to the Philippines from Hong Kong, where he went to evade a Senate invitation to testify in the probe of the government’s reportedly overpriced NBN deal with Chinese firm ZTE Corp. When he arrived at the Manila airport, police officers and airport officials took him to Laguna and Libis and then to Metro Manila. He later said that former presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor gave him P50,000 to call a press conference and deny any kidnapping attempt made on him.
The revelation: Two days after he arrived in Manila, he held a press conference and claimed people close to the Arroyo administration had him kidnapped to prevent him from testifying about the $329-million deal. According to Inquirer.net, he said then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel were the "masterminds behind the NBN-ZTE crime." He claimed that then Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr., who brokered the deal, demanded $130 million in commission. He also revealed that his friend Romulo Neri, then director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, supposedly stood to gain "200 million" from the deal.
Lozada was charged with graft and perjury, among other criminal cases. In the wake of recent exposes by Mendoza and Rabusa, he told Inquirer.net, "I hope that more Filipinos would surprise us with their love of country and courage to tell the truth."
Mary "Rosebud" Ong
Rosebud Ong said she is in favor of offering a reward for the arrest of Ping Lacson, who has gone into hiding. If he resists arrest, she said the police must issue a shoot-to-kill order.
The whistleblower: A former civilian narcotics agent.
The situation: In 2001, Ong said at a Senate inquiry that Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and other high-ranking officials were involved in criminal activities. She accused Lacson of drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and summary executions. The ’70s Miss Chinatown finalist went to Senate hearings dressed in cheongsams.
The revelation: Ong claimed that Lacson was behind the abduction and summary execution-"biyahe"-of three suspected Chinese drug lords in 1999. Under Lacson’s order, the Narcotics Group allegedly abducted and killed Chong Hui Ming, Wong Kam Chong and Chan Ka Tseung on separate occasions, according to Ong.
In 2001, she was placed under the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice. After the Court of Appeals junked the double murder case against Lacson this year, Ong publicly called the Senator a coward for going into hiding. "We will wait for you, wherever you are."
Clarissa Ocampo testifies in court.
The whistleblower: The then senior vice president of Equitable PCI Bank rose to fame in 2000, when the impeachment trial against then President Joseph Estrada started.
The situation: As the surprise witness of the prosecution, Ocampo took the stand in Estrada’s impeachment trial in December 2000. He was charged with bribery, graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
The revelation: Ocampo revealed what she knew about the Jose Velarde bank account worth over P3.2 billion, said to be the bulk of Estrada’s reported ill-gotten wealth. She said Estrada and Jose Velarde were one and the same, claiming she saw the former President repeatedly sign "Jose Velarde" on bank documents. Ocampo brought an envelope containing evidence of the account to court but pro-Estrada senators blocked its opening, according to Inquirer.net. This sparked People Power II, the mass demonstration that ousted Estrada and catapulted Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the presidency.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Equitable PCI flew Ocampo to the United States after she testified. Today, she still lives with security escorts, Inquirer.net reports.
Chavit Singson denies that he is a "jueteng lord."
The whistleblower: The Ilocos Sur governor exposed the "juetenggate" in October 2000.
The situation: At a hearing at the House of Representatives, Singson called then President Joseph Estrada the "lord of all jueteng lords." He also accused Estrada of embezzling P130 million in tobacco excise tax.
The revelation: Singson admitted to collecting jueteng payoffs and delivering the money to Estrada at Malacañang or at the former President’s home. Citing ledgers said to contain records from over 20 provinces plus Metro Manila, Singson said Estrada took three percent of the approximately P50 million total per day. Claiming there was a threat to his life when the police stopped his van that year, he said, "I knew then that he (Estrada) wanted me dead. If I didn’t come out, they would surely have killed me."
Last year, Singson was reelected governor of Ilocos Sur.
Vidal Doble testifies in the Senate hearing on the "Hello, Garci" scandal
The whistleblower: A former agent of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
The situation: In 2005, former National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Samuel Ong presented the "Hello, Garci" tapes at a press conference. The tapes allegedly contained conversations between then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about how to rig the 2004 elections in the former’s favor. Ong claimed Doble gave him a master copy of the tapes.
The revelation: After lying low for two years, Doble came out in 2007 as a civilian. He claimed he was part of a group of soldiers who wiretapped the phone conversations of Arroyo. "We were all surprised when (she) called Garcillano and (asked) about the additional one million votes." Doble claimed he kept silent because the military supposedly had his family detained in a basement. He said he decided to speak because he saw the "rampant cheating" in the 2007 elections which showed that "nothing changed."
Earlier, he said Ong forced him to testify in a video for a "scripted authentication" of the tapes but his girlfriend Marietta Santos later retracted this. She claimed Doble only said so because the ISAFP had his family.
In August last year, Doble was one of the whistle-blowers that came out during the Arroyo administration who asked to be placed under the Witness Protection Program.
Primitivo "Tibo" Mijares
The Conjugal Dictatorship by Primitivo Mijares. Photo from Amazon.com.
The whistleblower: During Ferdinand Marcos’ term as President in the ’70s, Mijares served as the head of the Media Advisory Council. According to The Philippines Reader, he was the "chief press censor for the Martial Law government."
The situation: One of the few non-relatives that Marcos trusted, he "undoubtedly (had) much inside knowledge that, if made public, could (have caused) distress to (the) government of the Philippines."
The revelation: Before he mysteriously disappeared in 1977, Mijares wrote the book The Conjugal Dictatorship, which detailed "how the dictator (Marcos) and his wife (Imelda) exercised absolute and supreme authority over the nation, including a repressed press, an intimidated judiciary, and ordinary citizens regimented through the barrel of the gun." Inquirer columnist Isagani Cruz said the book was secretly passed on from hand to hand at the time.
The same year Mijares went missing, his 10-year-old son was found dead-beaten and stabbed-at a Manila funeral parlor. To this day, Mijares has not been found.
Case Unclosed episode on the Jabidah massacre
The whistleblower: The lone survivor among approximately 60 Muslim youth said to have been summarily executed in the 1968 Jabidah Massacre.
The situation: More than 40 years ago, recruits were brought to the Corregidor Island to prepare them for "Operation Merdeka," Arula told Inquirer.net. At the time, it was a confidential plan of the Marcos administration to take control of the Malaysian state of Sabah, which the Philippine government claimed to be part of the country’s territory.
The revelation: After one of the recruits tried to raise their complaints against the officers to Malacañang, the officers fired at them all. Arula, then 27, said he sustained a gunshot wound to the left knee but he persevered and swam for four hours across the Manila Bay. According to Case Unclosed, the massacre "reawakened the Bangsamoro people and provided the spark for the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front."
In 2008, Inquirer.net reported, "(Arula) admitted that his revelations, which triggered a full-blown Senate inquiry but led to nothing, ruined not only his future but also his children’s... (He said most of his life) was spent in fear and in hiding." Rekrut, a 2010 Cinemalaya entry, was inspired by the Jabidah massacre.
Teodoro Locsin Jr. on "Koala Bear"
The whistleblower: A masked man, alias "Robin," who claimed widespread cheating in the 2010 elections.
The situation: Shortly after the May 10 elections in 2010, Manila Times columnist Buddy Cunanan presented a video to the media where a masked man had claimed to be involved in rigging votes. The man introduced himself as "Robin" but he became more known as "Koala Bear," the name that then Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. dubbed him due to the likeness of the facemask and straw hat he wore to the Australian marsupial.
The revelation: The masked man said they used "player" Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to transmit fake results ahead of the genuine ones. One of his allegations was that then Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, who won the vice presidency, paid them P1 billion. His rival, then Senator Mar Roxas, "gave some money but it was not that much."
Lawmakers called for him to reveal himself to give credibility to his allegations. Cunanan, who admitted he was part of the group who recorded the video, refused to identify "Koala Bear." Later that month, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said, "A losing candidate... is behind Koala Boy."
Artwork by Warren Espejo