Corruption in the Philippines

TIMELINE: How Jun Lozada went from whistleblower to graft convict

Sofia Guanzon
TIMELINE: How Jun Lozada went from whistleblower to graft convict

WHISTLEBLOWER. In this file photo, corruption whistleblower Rodolfo 'Jun' Lozada is accompanied by nuns at the Sandiganbayan after posting bail for his temporary liberty.

Joel Liporada

Here's a rundown of key developments leading up to NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Jun Lozada's conviction of graft

MANILA, Philippines – On June 2, Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada and his brother Orlando surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed their conviction on their 2016 graft case.

Lozada is most known for being the whistleblower behind the botched $329-million (P17-billion) National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, from 2007.

His exposé led to one of the biggest controversies that hit Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration, wherein he uncovered how the former president’s husband Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos, and former Cabinet officials were taking bribes from Chinese officials in the NBN-ZTE deal to digitize the bureaucracy.

The Lozada brothers now face a jail sentence of 6 to 10 years after the SC upheld their conviction. Arroyo, Abalos and other key officials accused by Lozada were acquitted by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. 

How did this happen? Here’s a rundown of how Lozada went from Arroyo administration whistleblower to being convicted of graft. 

2007: NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower

Lozada is an electronics engineer who served as the president and chief executive officer of the government-controlled Philippine Forest Corporation (FPC) – under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – from 2007 to 2008.

He also served as a technical consultant to former socioeconomic planning secretary Romulo Neri on the Philippine national broadband project in 2007. 

April: The NBN-ZTE broadband deal is approved by the Philippine government through a unanimous vote by the National Economic and Development Authority board, headed by Arroyo as president. The NBN-ZTE project aims to streamline communication between government offices nationwide through broadband technology.

Arroyo cancels the contract in October due to anomalies involving suspicious circumstances leading to the brokering of the deal, including Abalos’ unofficial frequent trips to China and meetings with ZTE officials. 

September: The Senate begins investigating the said anomalies of the project, where Lozada is identified as a key witness. 

2008: Senate testimony

January: Lozada skips his first Senate hearing and takes a flight to Hong Kong en route to London, prompting senators to order his arrest. Upon his return, he is allegedly kidnapped or “taken out of town” by unidentified people. 

Lozada testifies in the succeeding Senate hearings, where he accuses former first gentleman Arroyo, Abalos, and other Cabinet officials of taking bribes.

His testimony triggers a probe of the deal and the filing of charges against Abalos and Neri, who would later be found guilty of simple misconduct in 2013. 

Lozada files for protection – under the writ of amparo – with the Court of Appeals (CA) over threats to his life and his family, including the earlier case of alleged kidnapping. The CA denies this request, citing a lack of evidence for his claims. 

2009: Accused of corruption 

Lozada, along with his brother Orlando, is accused of graft by the Office of the Ombudsman over the grant of leasehold rights over public land to his brother and a private firm linked to him under a program of PhilForest, when he was still president and CEO of the government-run corporation. 

2012: Charged with graft

Lozada is charged with two counts of graft, while his brother is co-accused in one. The sole complainant is the current president of FPC, Erwin Santos, occupying Lozada’s former position.

The first graft case accuses Lozada of granting an unlawful grant of leasehold rights to the private corporation Transforma Quinta Inc., in which he and his wife Ma. Violeta were appointed representatives in certain transactions.

In the second case, the Ombudsman charges Lozada with graft for awarding leasehold rights over a 6.59-hectare public land to his brother Orlando.

The Sandiganbayan also issues two hold departure orders against Lozada, preventing him from leaving the country without permission from the courts. 

2013: More whistles to blow 

February: Lozada goes into hiding with the nuns of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines in an undisclosed location, following threats to his security.

He tells Rappler that six armed men came to his house in Pasig City in spite of recent warrants of arrest issued against him by the Sandiganbayan.

March: Lozada pleads “not guilty” to one of his graft cases during an arraignment headed by the Sandiganbayan. His brother also pleads the same. 

April: In a press conference, he presents the connections of individuals in business and government who are allegedly behind the graft cases filed against him. 

While presenting his findings, he explains he does not intend to malign anyone or label the appointments and contracts awarded as anomalous. He claims he only intends to enlighten the public.

2016: Convicted of graft 

The Sandiganbayan’s 4th Division sentences Lozada and his brother to 6 to 10 years in prison, finding them guilty of violating Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 

The remaining graft cases against Arroyo, then representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga, are junked by the Sandiganbayan, who rules that the evidence presented does “not sufficiently prove” that the former president benefitted from the alleged overpriced deal. 

One graft case against her husband and Abalos is also junked.

Arroyo was accused by the Ombudsman of violating the same law Lozada was found guilty of, RA 3019. 

This ruling on Arroyo’s alleged plunder prompts a domino effect, and effectively all the officials involved in the anomalous NBN-ZTE scam have now been cleared of corruption accusations. 

2022: Lozada brothers surrender 

On June 2, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirms the Lozada brothers surrendered to the NBI after their appeal with the SC was denied. The pair are facing 6 to 10 years of imprisonment. 

They are currently in the custody of the NBI, and Lozada is set to be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison for his sentence. 

An SC resolution dated July 28, 2021 but made public last March 23 shows the brothers’ petition for review of the 2016 Sandiganbayan decision that found them guilty of graft was denied. The resolution also states that they are perpetually disqualified from public office. 

In a post on his Facebook account on June 2, Lozada writes, “My enemies made good with their threats that they will make me regret for telling the truth.”

“Yes, they succeeded in sending me to prison. But they will not succeed in making me regret my decision to side with the truth [and] the people.” He adds, “Hindi ko pinagsisisihan ang ginawa kong pagpanig sa katotohanan. (I do not regret siding with the truth.)” – Rappler.com

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