The difference in US and RP attitudes toward whistleblowers
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-08-31
Joseph Vallachi, Sammy Gravano, Chavit Singson, Wilfredo "Boy" Mayor, Sandra Cam, Michael Angelo Zuce, Arsenio Rasalan and Clinton Colcol have one thing in common. They all stepped out from the shadows of admittedly illegal activities and exposed their crime bosses.

Joseph Vallachi and Sammy Gravano were both members of the American Mafia. They were "made men" (as they are called in the crime organization) who squealed on their Don or Capo di Tutti Capi, as the Mafia crime family boss is also called. Both Vallachi and Gravano feared for their lives after having sensed that their Dons had planned to 'ice' them. They both sought US government protection and with their testimonies the Mafia code of Omerta (silence) was broken, paving the way for assembling a solid case against the two top Mafia bosses in the 1950s and 1990s.

In 1959, Vallachi's testimony convicted Mafia Don Vito Genovese. In 1992, Gravano's testimony provided the vital evidences that convicted the once-called Teflon Don, John Gotti.

By no means were Vallachi and Gravano angels or saints or less of a sinner than the Mafia Dons that were convicted on account of their testimonies. They were as guilty of the same crimes and were in fact involved in the direct executions of many of those crimes that they squealed on. Their motivation for testifying against their Dons had nothing to do with an intense desire to help create a safer American society and had everything to do with that most basic of human instincts: self-preservation.

Yet, despite the selfishness of their motives for testifying, the US justice system accepted their testimonies just the same because it mattered not if these were the testimonies of angels against the devil but on the veracity of another devil's testimony against the more evil occupant of hell. Their characters mattered not to the jury and the judge. It was their story that proved to be the crucial factor. Because their stories checked out with other evidences and provided the key pieces to the crime puzzle, their testimonies were able to convict the two top Mafia bosses Genovese and Gotti. Both Genovese and Gotti never got back on the streets and died in jail.

I was still chairman of Council on Philippine Affairs (COPA) when Chavit Singson approached us in September 2000 to seek our assistance in exposing his "Juetengate" bombshell against then-president Joseph Estrada. I was having my hemodialysis treatment at Makati Medical Center when I received a call on my cell phone from former congressman Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, asking me to join him and an important "state witness" at his home later that evening. Normally, I would go home after my dialysis sessions, and Peping knew that. After dialysis, one is just too weak and occasionally groggy. But Peping underscored the importance and the urgency of the meeting and so I agreed to go.

That evening, I heard for the first time all the bombs that Chavit were to eventually detonate against Joseph Estrada in the exposé of "jueteng" illegal lottery bribery that led to Estrada's ouster. I was needed at that meeting, as it became my task to formulate the strategy for the presentation of the exposé. Given what Chavit had to reveal, I had to plan
what would be the most effective way to do it, in what forum, under what desired conditions, and so forth.

Listening to Chavit present his material, something bothered me. Chavit was beginning to sound like Ninoy Aquino, expressing serious concern over the pitiful state of the country, with its president more engaged in collecting jueteng bribes rather than addressing the misery of the masses he promised to deliver from poverty. It was not for me to judge if Chavit felt that this affected about the country. But it was of serious concern to me if this was how he would premise his exposé -- that he was doing it out of patriotism instead of his real fear that he was about to be liquidated for knowing too much about the illegal activity.

I formulated the Juetengate strategy that evening upon reaching home and the next evening, we met again with Chavit to discuss the strategy that I had developed. It was at this second meeting that I impressed on Chavit that what was important in the endeavor was to present the facts that he had in a manner that people would accept and believe.

Sounding like a patriot that he was never widely perceived to be, was one way for Chavit not to be believed. It was like Joe de Venecia and his ilk, the killers of the impeachment case against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, saying that they were working for the people and not for themselves when they did it. It was like hearing Mike Arroyo saying that he is not
controversial. It was like Gloria claiming that, like George Washington, she never told a lie.

I suggested to Chavit that he admit that his life was under threat and that his best protection was to expose the truth. Once the truth was out, his plotters would be put in a difficult defensive position. If he were harmed, the public would blame them for the deed and the crime of accepting jueteng bribes would complicate into first-degree murder. I precisely mentioned the cases of Vallachi and Gravano and that the most important consideration was that the truth be credible and believed. This was exactly what happened in the Juetengate exposé, and the rest is history.

Thus, I am now amused at all the efforts of the Arroyo administration to demonize the jueteng and recent election cheating witnesses and whistleblowers, attempting to discredit their testimonies because of their backgrounds.

When Bishop Oscar Cruz presented Boy Mayor, Sandra Cam and company in the jueteng hearings in Congress, there were no pretensions that they were saints or patriots but merely jueteng operation insiders who agreed to blow the whistle on the people in high places who muscled in on their operations and livelihood.

Call it an act of revenge or simply an attempt to redeem a lost source of revenue, but what is important to society is if their stories check out just like the testimonies of Vallachi and Gravano. The same principle applies in the case of the testimony of the two recent witnesses -- Arsenio Rasalan and Clinton Colcol -- to the 2004 election cheating who unloaded a lot of startling details about the cast of characters and modus operandi behind the rigging the 2004 vote.

The Malacañang "salamankeros" [magicians] had tried very hard to make it appear that Mayor, Cam and Zuce were dirty and dubious characters -- as if these witnesses were vying for a cabinet position or an ambassadorship which require unsullied reputations and track records that make them as clean as Caesar's wife. Now, the administration is doing the same with Rasalan and Colcol.

It is all in a day's work for Malacañang's well-oiled propaganda machine that has been working double time in the past fourteen months since "Hello, Garci" surfaced in spinning lies, half-truths and outright fairy tales, which to me represents the last gasps of a morally bankrupt regime. The Palace propaganda machine, as usual, is attempting to distract public attention from the details of these testimonies that can provide valuable
insights to the election fraud allegations.

A regime confident of its innocence in the election fraud charges would challenge the details of the testimonies of the whistleblowers. The Palace people's method of assaulting instead the characters of the witnesses betrays their fear that the testimonies are indeed very damaging to the regime. It also shows that the regime is unprepared to confront the issue head-on. Once out, truth is hard to demolish -- thus the temptation to try to demolish instead the characters of the whistleblowers.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is the exact opposite of the US district attorneys who used the testimonies of Vallachi and Gravano. Instead of using Arsenio Rasalan and Clinton Colcol as key witnesses to get to the bottom of the 2004 election cheating, Gonzalez threatens the witnesses with imprisonment. It's as if Gonzalez is out to protect the masterminds by scaring and discouraging the witnesses from further narrating their

The problem of Malacañang is whom the public will believe. Judging from the consistent drop in Arroyo's credibility and performance ratings in the Social Weather Stations, Pulse-Asia and Ibon surveys, it is quite evident that the Filipinos are more inclined to believe the whistleblowers, especially when they are being presented by bishops who have no selfish agenda in the matter except to see that the truth prevails. Despite
whatever spotty records that may have been tagged on the whistleblowers, they will be believed by the public just as the American public believed Vallachi and Gravano.

Worse, Arroyo is plagued with "salamankeros" whose noses seem to enlarge every time they open their mouths. Take the case of Mike Defensor's Aug. 12, 2005 "exposé" citing tampering and splicing on the Gloria-Garci tape that he claimed to be the findings of a US audio expert who he commissioned, Barry Dickey. Lo and behold, when local radio RMN-DZXL verified the claim with Dickey, he emphatically denied it as his findings. Dickey told Don Lino Selle, Radio Mindanao Network anchor in New York, that he made no such report purporting any tampering or splicing and even added that it was the opinion of Defensor's Filipino "experts" who claimed that.

The value of the testimonies of these whistleblowers is that of being insiders to an illegal operation and is no different from the value that Joseph Vallachi and Sammy Gravano provided the American justice system in order to convict Mafia Dons Genovese and Gotti. Like Vallachi and Gravano, Mayor, Cam and Zuce et al. are no saints and cannot even qualify for village captain owing to their admitted involvement in illegal activities.

But if their testimonies provide the missing pieces to the jueteng and Gloria-Garci puzzles, then these testimonies are as valuable as the oath of angels.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

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