Lozada Arrest Triggers Mass Condemnation

Manila—the arrest of Rodofo “Jun” Lozada sparked an unprecedented outpouring of public support and condemnation against the Arroyo regime. Lozada, a former government consultant, was the star witness in the Senate probe on the $329M NBN-ZTE scam, where, among other key revelations, he showed that the secret deal between high Philippine government officials and the China-based ZTE Corp. was anomalously overpriced by at least $130 million. The April 29 arrest from La Salle Greenhills stemmed from the perjury case filed by former presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor. Lozada told the Senate Blue Ribbon committee – under oath – that Defensor asked him to lie about his (Lozada’s) abduction by police officials and subsequent warnings to remain silent about his knowledge of the deal. Lozada eventually found refuge within the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Phils., in La Salle Greenhills in Mandaluyong City, where he and his family has since been living under continuing death threats. Statements after statements of support for Lozada and his plight alarmed Malacañang, but the Palace is yet to the issue their own. The Corrupt Prevail Cory Aquino was the first to express all-out support. “I appeal to all freedom-loving Filipinos to support Mr. Lozada in every way possible and to make it known, loud and clear, that he is not alone.” “I shall pray for him that he may be delivered from harm and injustice,” the former Philippine President – and the country’s living symbol of democracy – declares unequivocally. “His incarceration imprisons us all, as it serves to intimidate those of us who fight for the truth, fairness and decency in our country.” Truth Is Silenced Another former President, Joseph Estrada, who still retains his solid mass-support base, said in a statement that, “It is clear now that under this administration, the voice of truth is silenced while the acts of the corrupt prevail. This is not how democracy is supposed to work.” Continued Harassment Bro. Eddie Villanueva, founder of the international religious group Jesus Is Lord Movement and moral reform advocacy group Bangon Pilipinas, also released a statement: “The continued harassment of Lozada through threats and intimidation surely is the most accurate description of an administration that has twisted and mangled the administration of justice in this country.” Corrupt Practice Another formidable statement came from the Kaya Natin! Movement, a national advocacy group for good governance and ethical leadership: “These actions send the Filipino people the wrong message when it comes to the impartiality of our present justice system. This will also discourage future whistle-blowers from coming out in public to expose other corrupt practices present in our current government.” Kaya Natin! members are elected local officials known for their probity and integrity, and they all signed their manifesto: Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio; Ifugao Governor Teddy Bagulot Jr.; Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo; Mayor Fermin Mabulo of San Fernando, Camarines Sur; Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija; Mayor Florante Gerlan of Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya; and Gloria Gongco, former mayor of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. Blatant Acts The highly influential Makati Business Club, one of the most powerful groups in the Philippines, has also came out with their statement: “The filing of 16 criminal and civil cases against him and members of his family are blatant acts of harassment with the objects of suppressing the truth about the overpricing and bribery that attended the NBN-ZTE deal.” The MBC cited an event that has been broadcast on national TV: “No less than a Cabinet member, former NEDA [National Economic and Planning Authority] director-general and now SSS [Social Security System] president Romulo Neri, testified under oath that then Comelec [Commission of Elections] chair Benjamin Abalos had offered him a bribe in exchange for the facilitation of the approval of the NBN-ZTE contract. And yet, the Ombudsman has yet to file any charges against Abalos.” A Travesty Still another influential civil society group, the Black & White Movement, threw their support for Lozada – and disgust at the way the government conducts its business. Co-convener Leah Navarro says: “It’s a travesty. While Mike Defensor and his family go to Las Vegas to watch the Pacquiao fight, this man who is telling the truth is going to jail. What arrogance.” Being Punished Lozada did not resist arrest and refuses to post bail on principle. “This is the only way I can mount a protest that is not against the law.” He admits to be being scared – it was his first time to be arrested – but he is also “Sad because only I, among the many who were involved in the deal, am being punished, while FG [First Gentleman Mike Arroyo] and Abalos are yet to be charged.”