Sorita

THE NEED FOR A WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY

June 14, 2024 Bro. Clifford T. Sorita 69 views

Let me begin by quoting Warren Buffett, “The second reform concerns the ‘whistleblower line’, an arrangement through which employees can send information to me and the board’s audit committee without fear of reprisal. Most of the complaints we have received are of ‘the guy next to me has bad breath variety’, but on occasion, I have learned of important problems at our subsidiaries that I otherwise would have missed. The issues raised are usually not of a type discoverable by audit but relate instead to personnel and business practices. Berkshire would be more valuable today if I had put in a whistleblower line decades ago.”

By definition a WHISTLEBLOWER is a person who discloses misconducts in an organization relating to: (1) unlawful, deceitful, hazardous, or duplicitous practices; (2) failure to comply with a regulatory obligation; (3) miscarriage of justice; and (4) concealment of any of the above. Sometimes, whistleblowing is internal to an organization and is meant to expose the practices of an organization from its Presidents/CEOs to its managers. It could also be external, where a whistleblower exposes an entity’s illegal practices to the media, the law enforcement, or the government.

In the phrase finder, Gary Martin says that the origin of the word is “linked to the use of a whistle to alert the public or a crowd about such problems as the commission of a crime or the breaking of rules during a game. The phrase whistle blower attached itself to law enforcement officials in the 19th century because they used a whistle to alert the public or fellow police”. While in Etymology online and Wordorigins.org Whistleblower finds its origins in Sports referees, who use a whistle to indicate an illegal or foul play, were also called whistle blowers. Likewise, an 1883 story in Wisconsin’s Janesville Gazette called a policeman who used his whistle to alert citizens about a riot a whistle blower, without the hyphen. By the year 1963, the phrase had become a hyphenated word, whistle-blower. The word began to be used by journalists in the 1960s for people who revealed wrongdoing, such as Nader. It eventually evolved into the compound word whistleblower.

Culturally, Filipinos value our interpersonal relationships (“sakop mentality”) and as such see whistleblowing (perceived to be a form of Tattle-telling, telling on, being an informant or snitching) as a form of betrayal tinted with a negative hue to describe the action of selling out but we must reeducate such bad connotations to explain so many inherently positive outcomes from revealing or reporting unethical or illegal activities or information within the organization.

Whistleblowing is significant to the organization because: (1) Thwarts Misconducts – potential wrongdoings are curbed when everyone is aware that wrongdoers get punished as whistleblowing is a possibility; (2) Reduces Risks and Costs – As a result of not knowing (and in some cases ignoring), the relevant authorities cannot resolve the issue. This poses various risks to the organization including things like Legal prosecution, Dents to the organization’s reputation, Ruinous public scandals and Financial penalties; (3) Builds Strong Organizational Mental Health – Transparency and liability allow the organization to function successfully. Being forthcoming to your workers nurtures commitment and trust. In turn, it allows them to feel happy, comfortable and safe within the organization; (4) Provides more detailed insight into the issue/s – Whistleblowers generally have an insider perspective on the issues reported. They can often give details and insight into company matters that may otherwise go unseen; and (5) Whistleblowing is the Ethical thing to do – “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke).

Though Congress had previously passed House Bill 5715, also known as the “Whistleblower Protection, Security and Benefit Act of 2011, through the authorship of Reps. Teddy Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna) Neri Javier Colmenares (Party-list, Bayan Muna) Juan Edgardo Angara (Lone District, Aurora), Marcelino Teodoro (1st District, Marikina City), Niel Tupas, Jr. (5th District, Iloilo), Joseph Emilio Abaya (1st District, Cavite), Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. (Party-list, Abante Mindanao, Inc.), Ma. Rachel Arenas (3rd District, Pangasinan), Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (6th District, Cebu) and Salvador Escudero III (1st District, Sorsogon); with a counterpart Senate Bill 3533 by former Senator Richard Gordon; the current legal protection for Whistleblowers is only via Republic Act (RA) No. 6981, or “The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act” which was enacted into law principally to encourage an individual who has witnessed or has knowledge of the commission of a crime to testify before a court, a quasi-judicial body, or an investigating authority by protecting him from probable reprisals and from unavoidable economic dislocation. This makes an internal whistleblower policy an imperative.

As a benchmark from the Audit Committee Institute, UK such Whistleblower Policy must: (1) treat fairly and properly all concerns raised; (2) not tolerate the harassment or victimization of anyone raising a genuine concern; (3) retain the anonymity of any individual making a disclosure unless they agree otherwise; (4) ensure that any individual raising a concern is aware of who is handling the matter; (5) guarantee that no one will be at risk of suffering some form of retribution as a result of raising a concern even if they are mistaken. And that this assurance is not extended to someone who maliciously raises a matter they know to be untrue.

“The purpose of whistleblowing is to expose secret and wrongful acts by those in power in order to enable reform” (Glenn Greenwald). “Whistleblowers are knights in shining armor! They have exposed all manner of malfeasance, official misconduct and fraud as well as helped us as a society evade potential harms to justice, health and our environment. Those who step up to expose violations of the public trust, often at great personal risk, deserve robust protections, safe reporting channels and legal indemnification because of their crucial role in protecting the public” (Linda Sherry, Consumer Action).

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