Press Release
December 26, 2008

Gordon assails at DA's failure to protect whistle-blowers

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today lashed out at the Department of Agriculture (DA) for its poor record in providing due protection to its whistle blowers.

"The killing of Marlene Esperat and Teofilo Mojica are just on the tip of the iceberg. One way to stop people from blowing a whistle against corruption is to silence them permanently," said Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

Gordon has broached the possibility that the killings of Esperat and Mojica were part of a move to keep many others silent about corruption with the DA. Esperat was an ex-employee who turned Ombudsman at the DA, while Mojica was an officer of the DA Employee's Association.

"What does the DA bureaucracy do when one of their own (employees) reports an anomaly? Do they immediately have it investigated and extend due protection to its whistle blower? It is more likely that they don't, as we have already seen," he added.

Gordon also noted that Marites Aytona, a key personality in the controversial fertilizer project, had been accosted at gunpoint in Quezon City as she was being driven to the Senate to attend the hearing on the fertilizer fund scam.

Based on the police report, the incident occurred at about 11:20 a.m. at Calamba Street in Biak na Bato, Sto. Domingo Village in Quezon City. Marites was allegedly seated at the front seat of their Toyota Avanza,

Ramon, her brother, was at the backseat, while another sibling, Eduardo, was driving when a man riding a motorcycle blocked their path and pointed a gun at Marites.

According to Ramon, they feared that the man was about to shoot his sister but Eduardo was able to maneuver the car to a safe place and the armed man did not attempt to follow. Gordon had since put Aytona under the Senate's custody.

"Whether this was a case of a foiled stoplight robbery or an attempt to keep her quiet is not clear. But viewed together with the killings of Esperat and Mojica, I suspect it can be intimidating to keep other people quiet about the corruption they may know of in the DA," said Gordon.

On the appearance of another witness, Gordon had offered Jaime "Jimmy" Paule the Senate protection should the latter wish to so that he can safely attend and testify what he knows before the Senate investigation scheduled on Jan. 20.

He stressed that it would be best for other personalities involved in the fertilizer fund scam to surrender, out of concern for their safety, especially after another witness Marites Aytona reported an ambush attempt on her life.

"We can even give them protection, if that is what is keeping them from showing up." he said.

As investigation into the fertilizer fund scam continues, the Senate blue ribbon committee which Gordon chairs expects to turn up more leads through the appearance of more witnesses who can help in uncovering the network of corruption and exposing the mafia-like operations within the Department of Agriculture.

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