OwingBy Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Jun Lozada himself explains it thus: He’s not running away from justice, he’s running away from death, or the threat thereof. The way things are, which is that witnesses tend to be plucked out of their homes in the middle of the night and relocated to the afterlife, better to be safe than sorry. Hell, better to be sorry than dead. Fernando Morales, who was linked to Atimonan victim Vic Siman, might have talked except that he was killed while being arrested for illegal possession of firearms at one o’clock in the morning. Trying to escape while clad only in briefs.
Several armed men knocked on Lozada’s door over the weekend, identifying themselves as postal workers. Which naturally sent alarm bells blaring in his head: An IT expert, he has nothing to do with snail mail anymore. He sought refuge, and where better than in his old haunt under the protection of the AMRSP nuns?
I myself have no problems with Lozada facing the music. “The charges against Lozada were reviewed by the Ombudsman,” says Ricky Carandang. “And the Ombudsman believes that there is sufficient basis to file charges against him.” The charge is that while he was president of Philippine Forest Corp. in 2007, he gave leasehold rights to public lands to his brother. Well, if he’s proven guilty, then he has to pay, notwithstanding the incalculable service he has rendered the nation by exposing the ZTE scam.
The principle is not unlike that in Denzel Washington’s movie, “Flight” (my apologies for the spoiler). Being able to land a plane against all odds with a minimum of life lost may be heroic and deserve praise, but piloting a plane while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine is criminal and deserves time. The first may not preclude the second.
But while at this, the nuns have every right to question the evidence. It looks every inch tainted. That evidence was presented by Erwin Santos, the fellow Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo replaced Lozada with after she fired him for exposing ZTE, and that evidence continues to be presented by the same Santos, who for the strangest reasons continues to be president of PFC to this day. Certainly the nuns who are behind Lozada find it the strangest thing in the world and want to know from Malacañang why an Arroyo hatchet man remains in a position to torment her tormentors.
Apparently, the Cabinet members who have visited Lozada told him the case is out of P-Noy’s hands. “The appointment of Santos is the responsibility of Cesar L. Villanueva, chairman for government corporations.” Huh? The President may not interfere in the appointment of one of his people and for an urgent reason? Hell, the President may not look into the carry-over of an official that was only too willing to carry out the ex-usurper’s, and current jailbird’s, bidding?
I agree completely: Lozada may not get preferential treatment. The law is universal or it is nothing at all. Fighting corruption is equal-opportunity, or it is nothing at all. Where there is cause, Lozada should be prosecuted. Where there is proof, Lozada should be punished. But more than anybody else, he deserves a fair hearing. More than anybody else, he deserves protection. It’s the least we owe him.
I know Lozada does not have a multitude of fans. I knew that way back in the ZTE hearings. Some told me: Sure, he’s testified, but he can’t be clean, too, he was part of that group, too. Others told me: Doesn’t he just like basking in the limelight, wringing his deprivations for all they’re worth?
To those who said those things then, and to those who say those things now, my answer remains: Yes, but could you have done what he did?
Drawing from “Flight” again, you’ve also got to marvel at the feat of saving a plane against all odds, which is what Lozada did, or its equivalent. And that is assuming he did as well the equivalent of driving a plane drunk and drugged, which has yet to be proven. He’s innocent until that is proven.
Could you have done what he did?
I don’t know that I could. The guy was offered money in Hong Kong just to keep quiet. And just to make sure he would, he was kidnapped after he landed in Manila and driven around for a couple of hours and made to glimpse the afterlife. You can’t get any more epic carrot-and-stick than that. Cooperate, and get rich; don’t, and die.
Or at least be in constant fear for your life, and the life of your loved ones. Which was the reason the Lozada family fled to La Salle Greenhills. Or at least be hounded for life, or as long as the Arroyos live. Which was the reason the family lived the life of fugitives for as long as they did. Or at least worry no end that a case of corruption, real or invented, would be filed against you to wreck your credibility. Which was why cases of corruption were filed against him then, which is why cases of corruption are filed against him now.
Same question: Could you have done what he did? Thereby giving a definitive face to corruption in Arroyo’s time? Thereby contributing mightily to ending Arroyo’s rule? Look at Romy Neri, and despair.
You may not like the guy, you may find all sorts of fault in him. But give him an even break, give him a fair hearing, give him—and his family—reasonable protection. At the very least because the future of whistle-blowers in this country depends on it. Why should anyone ever want to blow his whistle if he can be rich if he doesn’t and dead if he does, if he and his family have to disrupt their lives, the parents unable to earn a living and the kids unable to go to school, if they have to worry no end about their integrity being called into question? And at the end of it all, at the seeming end of it all, have to go through all that all over again?
At the very most, he deserves it.
We owe him, and we owe him big.
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