A GROUP of former whistle-blowers on Monday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado from its Witness Protection Program (WPP).The Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines, led by Sandra Cam, also called for an investigation on the reported involvement of Mercado in harboring former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, who went into hiding when they were tagged as brains in the January 2011 killing of broadcaster Gerry Ortega.Cam said their group would prefer that the Senate or the House of Representatives would lead the probe, casting doubts on the impartiality of a DOJ-led investigation.“We are calling for his [Mercado’s] expulsion from the WPP because, as far as I know sa WPP, hindi dapat gumagamit ng cell phone ang witnesses. Dapat tanggalin si Mercado, because he was aiding and communicating with a fugitive [Reyes],” Cam told reporters in the DOJ.Mercado is under WPP coverage owing to his testimony in the Senate on corruption allegations against Vice President Jejomar C. Binay and his family.Mercado has accused the Binays of alleged overpricing in the Makati City Hall Building II and anomalous deals in the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, of which Binay is the president.Cam claimed having reliable information to back claims made by the National Police about the communication between Mercado and the Reyes brothers, while the two were in hiding.Reports said the National Police had retrieved call data and short message service (SMS) records of the Reyes brothers communicating with their associates, one of whom was Mercado, while hiding in Thailand.The Reyes brothers allegedly slipped out of the country in March 2012, a few days before arrest warrants were issued against them.The two reportedly flew to Vietnam, with Joel Reyes supposedly using a fake passport under the name “Joseph Lim Pe.”The brothers were arrested two weeks ago in Phuket, Thailand.They were deported to the Philippines on September 25, and are now detained at the Puerto Princesa City Jail in Palawan.“May process iyan bago makagamit ang isang witness ng phone, dapat humingi ng permission sa guwardiya. So does it mean, pinayagan siya [Mercado] ng DOJ? Paanong kahit nasa Senado siya, nako-contact siya ng Reyes brothers,” Cam asked.The Reyes brothers’ case was among the instances cited by Cam in which the DOJ had allegedly displayed a “double standard” in dealing with individuals seeking admission to the WPP.Last Thursday Cam reiterated that the Reyes brothers’ three-year evasion from arrest was a “very concrete example of the double standard” of Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima, whom Cam pointed out was a former election lawyer of Joel Reyes.Cam said neither the DOJ nor the National Bureau of Investigation did anything to track down the Reyes brothers.“It was people from the National Police who found the Reyes brothers. Hindi totoo na nag-surrender sila… they were arrested. They were already in surveillance, not by the NBI, but by the National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group,” she said.The camp of Binay, through its Spokesman for Political Affairs Rico Quicho, had already urged the DOJ to remove Mercado from the WPP if an investigation by the agency would prove he communicated with the Reyes brothers while they were on the run.Asked how Mercado and the Reyeses came to know each other, Cam said the men were known in the cockfighting circuit.“Joel Reyes and Vice Mayor Mercado have the same vice, sabong. They are sabongero. They are politicians who always gamble in sabong…. It’s public knowledge na kahit kristo [bet takers] ng sabungan, kilala sila,” Cam said.Cam said if de Lima would not remove Mercado from the WPP, she hoped the justice secretary’s successor would.De Lima on Monday announced that she would step down on October 12, after the Liberal Party (LP) has confirmed her inclusion in its senatorial slate for 2016 elections.The LP will announce its senatorial lineup on Friday.