Jun Lozada: Why is Arroyo's man still in power?
MANILA, Philippines - Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada has more whistles to blow.
In a press conference Saturday, April 6, the whistleblower in the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal presented to an audience of less than 50 the "interconnections" of individuals in business and in government who may be behind the graft cases filed against him.
He said there are people behind Erwin Santos, current president of state-run Philippine Forest Corporation (Philforest), and the sole complainant in Lozada's pending graft cases. The cases were filed against Lozada as chief executive officer of Philforest, which is a subsidiary of the Natural Resources Development Corp-Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Santos was already with the company prior to becoming president.
"We were simply asking why is the complainant of [former President] Arroyo against me being appointed by the Aquino administration?" Lozada said, explaining what triggered him to conduct research that led to the unraveling of a web of connections among Arroyo cohorts.
In a Powerpoint presentation, Lozada narrated that former environment secretary Lito Atienza, who "recruited Santos" to testify against him, was a close mentor of construction magnate Jose "Jerry" Acuzar. Acuzar is the owner of the Samar headquarters of the campaign of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III in 2010.
The Noy-Bi (Noynoy-Binay) campaign in Samar was headed by Acuzar's brother-in-law Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa, who was the city administrator of Quezon City during Sonny Belmonte's term as Mayor and who is now Aquino's Executive Secretary. Ochoa was allegedly instrumental in the appointment of Santos, allowing him to stay in government and to serve as Philforest president.
Lozada, who formerly occupied Santos' current post, is facing two counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan 4th Division. Both cases are related to his work at Philforest. The graft charges were filed over alleged fraudulent grants of land lease contracts for public lands administered by Philforest.
One of the contracts was allegedly awarded to his brother Jose Orlando Lozada and another to Transforma Quinta Inc, a private company represented by Lozada and his wife Maria Violeta.
(Below is a copy of Lozada's Powerpoint file.)
In an Inquirer article (one of the slides above), Acuzar mentioned Atienza and House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte as individuals from whom he learned various lessons. Acuzar's company, the New San Jose Builders Inc (NSJB), had been associated in the past with anomalous government housing contracts.
Lozada explained that, in releasing this web of connections, he did not intend to impugn anyone or label the appointments and contracts awarded as anamolous. He said he just wanted to enlighten the public.
"These are relationships which we are not saying are illegal, which we are not calling as corrupt. What we're just saying [is] these are all the connections. And in this country, connection, family ties, and long-time business and political ties remain," he said in an interview.
Palawan Governor Abraham Kahlil Mitra has already written to Aquino, explaining that "the scheme of distribution in favor of corporate and individual applicants" of the land in question is contrary to a provision that declared the area as a "pasture reserve."
Indifference of Aquino administration
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), with whom Lozada sought refuge following threats to his security, believes that the administration's treatment of Lozada's case deviates from its "daang matuwid (Straight Path)" slogan and anti-corruption campaign.
"We were saddened by how the PNoy administration treated the case of Jun Lozada. It is unthinkable for us to imagine that this basic heroic act, that is putting Jun Lozada and his family not only in danger but in a state of dislocation that sees no immediate end, would be in vain. We cannot go back to 'business as usual,' simply because 'higher-up' officials wanted to get back at Jun. We cannot understand the indifference that PNoy government had with Jun Lozada," their statement read.
Lozada was a key figure in the Senate probe exposing the corruption of the Arroyo administration in the NBN-ZTE deal. His exposé resulted in the filing of charges against former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos and former Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri.
"What's happening? Akala ko ba anti-Arroyo? Akala ko ba anti-corruption? (I thought [the administration] is anti-Arroyo, anti-corruption?) But why is the Arroyo complainant being employed by them?" Lozada asked.
At a disadvantage?
In the press conference, AMRSP executive secretary Fr Marlon Lacal explained that the cases filed against Lozada are aimed at discrediting him as a key witness against Arroyo.
"Clearly, there are forces out there who wanted to destroy and malign Jun so that his testimony in the NBN-ZTE anomaly will be held under suspicion and will lose its weight and credibility," AMRSP said in a statement.
The religious group was part of the dialogue held in the Palace last February. That dialogue sought to "ensure a level playing field" and to clarify the circumstances surrounding Lozada's case, including his inability to access pertinent documents he left with Philforest, as the company is run by the complainant.
The documents will help build up their defense, according to Lozada. "Without them, it will be very easy for the opposing side to manipulate the data and [use] fake documents," he said in Filipino.
Aquino, however, refused to meddle with the case.
"At sabi nga sa amin ng presidente, kung may kailangan akong material para depensahan ang sarili ko, eh susulatan ko yung complainant ko," Lozada said. (And the President told us, if I needed material for my defense, I should write to my complainant.)
Sister Mary John Mananzan, who was also present during the dialogue, said she felt "disillusioned" with the President's "lack of compassion."
Despite this, Lozada is confident they will win. "You know what? The truth will always come out. Truth has its own way," he said. - Rappler.com