Ideally, honesty should be its own reward.
Honest people are such a decent bunch. They do not expect anything in exchange for telling the truth.
However, like the rest of us, they have jobs, income, and livelihood to protect as well as families to support.
In exposing corruption, plunder, and other high crimes in government involving their superiors, they put themselves in harm’s way. They could be discredited, their reputations destroyed, their personal safety threatened, including their families. In extreme cases, they can even get killed.
Blowing the whistle on powerful people can indeed be that hazardous to one’s health.
And so a bill filed by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson seeks to offer substantial rewards and better protection to witnesses in exchange for coming out and testifying against government officials or employees involved in corruption.
Lacson said that by getting the cooperation of "credible witnesses with reliable information," his bill may address the difficulty of fighting corruption, especially those involving acts behind closed doors.
"This proposed legislation seeks to encourage whistleblowers to come out in the open and put an end to the corrupt practices of some government officials or employees. At the same time, it aims to strengthen the present machinery in ensuring the full protection and security of these brave witnesses against any form of retaliation or ostracism, and establish a rewards-and-benefits system in order to ensure the livelihood and welfare of these whistleblowers," he said in Senate Bill 258.
But Lacson, who served as a law enforcer for 30 years, including as National Police chief from 1999 to 2001, also pointed out the bill also includes a rigid procedure to prevent abuses or false witnesses.
His bill covers cases involving violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the code of ethics for government officials and employees, the Anti-Plunder Law, and other crimes committed by public officers.
The proposed act seeks to reward whistleblowers or informants from the public or private sector who make disclosures that are voluntary, in writing and under oath, and relate to conduct constituting graft and corruption.
Such disclosures should not yet be subject of a complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman or investigated by any other investigating agency, unless the Ombudsman deems such disclosure is needed for an effective prosecution, or for the acquisition of material evidence not yet in its possession.
The disclosures should also be corroborated; and lead to a successful gathering of evidence and/or investigation that can in turn result in the filing of a criminal complaint before a court.
While a whistleblower need not testify in court to enjoy the benefits under Lacson's bill, he or she would be entitled to additional benefits and protection under the Witness Protection Program if his or her court testimony is needed.
Also, the bills seeks to give the Office of the Ombudsman added powers to implement its provisions. An initial P100 million is to be appropriated from the National Treasury to implement the act.
Whistleblowers can get half the reward after being qualified and admitted to the program by the Office of the Ombudsman, and the remaining half before the filing of a case in a proper court.
In cases such as plunder, forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth, bribery, malversation and damage or injury to government, the whistleblower wouldl be entitled to an additional reward of up to 10 percent of the amount recovered by final judgment.
Should the case drag on, the whistleblower may get an advanced payment equivalent to 25 percent of the additional reward of the total award due, consistent with the nature of the case and the amount involved and deemed recoverable.