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Monday, February 11, 2008

Jun Lozada: it's worth taking a risk for this country

An excerpt from Jun Lozada's press statement:

"Ang dasal ko lang sana maintindihan nyo yung dusang dinananas ng pamilya ko ngayon. Ang dasal ko lang sana matutunan na natin after nito na ang salitang Pilpino ay hindi lang tumutkoy sa isang pamilya. Ang salitang Pilipino ay tumutukoy sa isang bansa, ang bansang Pilipino. And sometimes, it's worth taking a risk for this country."

Profile in courage

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines - Panfilo Lacson prefaced the questions he put to Jun Lozada last Friday by expressing the deepest appreciation for what he had done. Normally, Lacson said, which is to say in a democracy, it’s the government that is afraid of the people and not the people of their government. Abnormally, which is to say in our times, it’s the people who are afraid of their government and not the government of its people.

For that reason, Lacson said, he had the greatest admiration for what Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada had done. May his act of self-sacrifice, he said, serve as an inspiration to his fellow citizens.

I couldn’t agree more. I saw Lozada Thursday night on TV, and the face of a more scared man you could not hope to see. That did not make him less admirable, it made him the more so. He had just gone through a terrifying ordeal, which was being picked up at the airport by armed men in civilian clothes who tried to make him sign a document disowning the things he proposed to reveal, which was why he had come home to his country at great risk to his life. He did fear for his life, and he did fear for his wife and children. At the mention of which he choked on his words and turned away, eyes shut tight in an expression of indescribable pain. But he had decided anyway to risk all to salvage what he could of his honor and to give back to a country that was in the throes of indescribable pain.

“It’s just drama,” Raul Gonzalez would sneer. Well, one day God or the people, whoever comes first or more swiftly, will give him to understand the meaning of the word.

I myself remembered a fundamental truth about courage. Which is that courage is not the absence of fear. It is the presence of fear, often a most crippling one, but a fear that is overcome by a heroic act of will, or by the recognition that one has no choice but to do what is right. That is what Rodolfo Lozada has done.

You looked at him last Thursday and Friday and you had to ask yourself how you would act in his place. Would you be just as willing to come out and tell the world what you knew about a humongous scam, perpetrated by people whose power, individually and collectively, and capacity for murder, metaphorically and literally, are amply in evidence? And when the life and wellbeing not just of yourself but of your children hung in the balance? That is not an easy thing to answer honestly, particularly given a country whose people seem to have lost the capacity to appreciate gestures like that. I personally do not know what I would do.

Lozada’s act of heroism becomes even more striking when compared with what his immediate superior, Romulo Neri, did some months back. There you have to stand agape at the irony of words, for Neri is superior to Lozada only in the same way that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is superior to Mother Teresa—in that the former have awesome power while the latter do not. Or at least seemingly so, for in the scheme of things the second would prove to have all the power in the world while the first would prove sublimely impotent. You looked at Neri, and in light of Lozada’s resplendent act, you told yourself: What a wimp.

It was the fear that Lozada had to master that made him far more believable than all the horses and all the queen’s men (and women) put together. You had to ask yourself why any man would put the lives of his loved ones on the line for a reason other than the compelling one.

Miriam Defensor-Santiago would suggest that reason was crookedness. She it was who pointed out triumphantly how Lozada paid for his personal insurance with taxpayers’ money. Which reminded me yet again of Raul Roco making Miriam look bad after her interpolation of a witness during the Erap impeachment trial, which drove her ballistic and drove her to drive away three prominent members of the gallery. Lozada did not need anyone to do that for him, he himself made Miriam look bad.

He readily admitted that in his life he had done things he wasn’t proud of, and this was one of them. For which he was trying to make amends by doing what he was doing right now. Whatever was left of his soul, he wanted to keep intact. It was the most complete refutation of Miriam for it turned the question back on her: Do you still have anything of your soul left to salvage?

Gregorio Honasan would ask Lozada rhetorically whether what he was doing was an act of heroism or an act of survival. Lozada’s answer was even more brilliant. Yes, what he was doing was also an act of survival, but it was survival of quite another kind. It made me realize yet again that courage was first and last moral and only marginally and incidentally physical.

He came from a poor family of Chinese immigrants, Lozada said, but his father had always taught him to value pride and honor above wealth and power. He had not always lived up to his father’s words, but now he proposed to do so. Now he would do his father proud, now he would redeem himself and honor his father. Which turned the question back on the whole cabal that had been trying to wreck his credibility, Ronnie Puno, Lito Atienza, Sergio Apostol, Avelino Razon (whatever happened to you Sonny?): How the hell did your own parents raise you?

Lozada did say something last Thursday that stuck in my brain. He could only hope, he said, that his fellow Filipinos would not let his gesture go to waste. He himself has been weighed and found the right measure. Tinimbang ka, at tamang sukat.

How will we be found when we are weighed?

Greed, panic, lies; is justice next?

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:43:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines - First it was the greed, then the panic, and then the lies. What will come next? It should be justice and punishment for the guilty. We hope they do come.

With the revelations of Jun Lozada, it is not difficult to piece together what happened so that the ZTE-NBN deal came to this sordid mess.

As the Arroyo administration is coming to an end, it was every greedy man for himself in providing for his future. “This is your last chance, make the most of it,” must have been the pervading sentiment among administration officials. “If you’re going to steal, steal big” must have been another among the greediest.

And so encouraged by the successes in the North Rail and South Rail projects, the Fertilizer Scam and other assorted scams, the “brokers” wanted bigger and bigger “commissions.” And they got bigger because more and more people wanted their share. Can you blame Benjamin Abalos if he wanted $130 million when $70 million of that will allegedly go to FG and smaller amounts to other officials? By the time the partitioning is over, he would probably have just enough to retire on in luxury.

“Sec, may P200 [million] ka dito” (Abalos’ alleged offer to Romulo Neri) seemed at first shockingly big, but remember that the $130 million commission was in dollars, equivalent to about P6.5 billion at the time the offer was made.

But greed knows no bounds or such a thing as too much. And to Neri and Lozada, P6.5 billion (that’s billions) in commission was too much. And so the Neri order to Lozada to “moderate their greed.” And to Lozada, it was really unconscionably too much. It would be the taxpayers who would pay for that. Half of that ($65 million) would have been acceptable to him. But Abalos allegedly would have nothing of that. It was all or nothing for him. As he told the (First?) Gentleman on the phone, “Kung ganyan kayo, kalimutan na natin ang pinag-usapan natin [If you are like that, let’s forget everything we agreed on].” But how can whoever that man was forget $70 million?

So he got on the phone and he was so powerful and persuasive that he was able to have the Chinese government agree to give a loan to pay for the huge commission (but for which the Filipino taxpayers would eventually have to pay).

But as Lozada had warned, it was too big—“bubukol po ’yan.” It was not just a pimple, but a big boil that became too obvious. And so “bumukol na nga.”

And the ZTE-NBN scandal exploded.

When Abalos resigned and the uproar quieted, they thought they had it licked but when the Senate subpoenaed Lozada and Neri, they panicked again. To prevent them from testifying, they sent Lozada to Hong Kong with antedated papers and Neri ran to the Supreme Court. But when Lozada said he wanted to come home, they panicked some more. And when you panic, you make mistakes.

And so the panic-stricken conspirators probably held a quick powwow and while undecided on what to do decided to abduct Lozada when he arrived at the airport to prevent him from falling into the hands of the Senate sergeant at arms. They took Lozada on a five-hour ride, to Laguna and back, while they decided what to do and prepared the affidavits he would be made to sign to absolve Ma’am and FG of any involvement in the scam.

Meanwhile, Lozada’s wife and family were also panicking (who wouldn’t if the man of the family went missing?) and ran to the media which made so much noise that Lozada’s abductors decided to return him to his family at La Salle Greenhills where they had sought refuge.

Enter Mike Defensor. MalacaƱang’s dependable troubleshooter asked Lozada to call a press conference to deny knowledge of the ZTE deal.

Lozada didn’t want that because he would have to tell lies. So he called on the nuns and priests for advice. Their advice: Be truthful.

They decided to hold a press conference at 2 o’clock in the morning to preempt the press conference Defensor would call later. Media obliged and ANC broadcast the whole press conference from beginning to end, and escorted Lozada until he was safely in the custody of the Senate. The dam had burst and all the sordid details that had been kept secret flowed out.

More panic, more mistakes. The administration trotted out all the big guns to discredit Lozada: Lito Atienza, Romulo Neri, Avelino Razon, Ignacio Bunye, Leandro Mendoza, Ronaldo Puno, Mike Defensor, Luis Villafuerte, Benjamin Abalos, lawyers Antonio Bautista and Salvador Panelo, Palace deputy spokesman Antonio Golez, Presidential Assistant Manuel Gaite, DOTC Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso and many more.

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile, unabashed GMA allies (Miriam’s husband is a presidential adviser and Enrile’s wife has just been appointed ambassador to the Vatican) tried to discredit Lozada at the Senate hearing, only to fall flat on their faces because of Lozada’s honesty. Presidential Legal Adviser Sergio Apostol insulted the whole Filipino-Chinese community with his racist slur that Lozada was just a “probinsyanong intsik” who should be deported. Yet Lozada speaks more fluent Filipino than he does. Public relations practitioners, government and private, fanned out to feed media with information to discredit Lozada’s revelations.

All of them arrayed against just one person, unknown until recently. All for nothing, because Lozada was telling the truth and they were not. When you tell lies, they eventually contradict one another. And they forgot the poem that said “Sir Galahad has the strength of ten because his heart is pure.” Yes, Lozada is another Galahad with a pure heart against whom all the forces of evil thrown by the administration are powerless. Let’s all support him.


Anonymous said...

As one of the citizen of this country i never thought that one man can stand for his country and smash a wide powerful wall againts all odds. I hope and wish that there are more Jun Luzada in this country may god bless Jun Luzada bilib ako sa kanya. A living model to all filipino people.