There are those who believe, after closely following the recent hearings in the Senate on the ZTE national broadband network (NBN) controversy, that there was extensive manipulation by a group of opposition leaders of chief witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. in order to bring down the government.
To these observers, his recent testimony tended to show that Lozada was not a victim of what he claims to be a kidnapping by government authorities but, on the contrary, that there was a grand design of opposition leaders, led by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal, to set up the authorities who, perhaps out of naiveté or eagerness to help the President, fell for the trap. To these observers, it was a typical Lacson maneuver, smooth and scheming, with all the angles covered.
Part of Lozada?s credibility stems from his looking helpless and guileless, a victim of persecution by the Arroyo administration for "telling the truth." But to keen observers, that impression was being blown bit by bit in the past few days, as it began to appear that he was a part of a grand design to overthrow the government and hoodwink the nation -- even as he kept seeking help from government officials for his security and financial wellbeing at the same time.
* * *
It was Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza who first raised in the Senate this possibility of a grand design and hinted that Lacson was the manipulator. When I heard Atienza, I began to closely follow this argument and I must say that I tend to agree.
For instance, Bro. Felipe Belleza, president of La Salle Greenhills, testified that Lozada and his family had been talking to him since early January about seeking refuge in the school. When Lozada disembarked from the plane from Hong Kong, he claimed that he was held against his will, but later in the evening he asked to be brought to La Salle and the police were surprised to see his family already there.
And yet, in the early morning of Feb. 6, as Police Senior Supt. Paul Mascarińas pointed out, even though Lozada was already with his family in the evening of Feb. 5, his wife still filed writs of habeas corpus and amparo (which the Court of Appeals threw out later). Part of the grand design to make the kidnap/cover-up angle more believable?
* * *
Lacson has a lot to explain not just to the people but to his colleagues as well. As Atienza pointed out, how come he knew ahead of everyone that Lozada was resigning, that he was not going to London but to Hong Kong, and that he was arriving on Feb. 5? And how come he was at the airport that afternoon with his men, apparently seeking to preempt the Senate sergeant-at-arms who was sent by the chamber to fetch Lozada? Did Lacson plan to brief the witness first? He said later that he was simply being enterprising. Or is it because he was manipulating the witness all along, since December, when Lozada and Romulo Neri met with Lacson and Madrigal and the latter tried to get them to turn against the government.
* * *
By their own admission, Lacson and Madrigal tried to entice Neri to jump to their side by offering to raise a "patriotic fund" of P20 million that would enable him to live comfortably if he should resign from government. Isn't this bribery? Neri, to his credit, turned that big amount down despite initial temptation to accept it (about a year after supposedly turning down Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos' promised P200 million).
The question being raised now is: If there was a "patriotic fund" for Neri, there must have been one for Lozada, to enable him to maintain his lifestyle as a high roller and one perpetually preoccupied with money (he asked the Senate to pay for what he spent in Hong Kong). How much was Lozada's "patriotic fund"? Then too, how come he disclosed only now the P500,000 that Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite "lent" him as spending money in Hong Kong?
* * *
The nation celebrates from Friday to Monday, Feb. 25, the 22nd anniversary of EDSA People Power I. At no time perhaps is it more relevant to observe this than now, when the nation is once again caught in political turbulence and is farthest from being united. But despite all the pain and troubles, we must continue re-living the glory of those days of bravery and sacrifice, and learning invaluable lessons on unity and reconciliation for our present and future life as a nation.
The EDSA People Power Commission has drawn up a long list of activities to mark this event in the metropolis and in the provinces as well as in our embassies around the world. One of the meaningful recollections is the dzRH radio interview Cecile Alvarez and I will have with Fr. James B. Reuter, S.J. at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24, when he relives how Radio Veritas carried on as Radyo Bandido, the sole voice to the outside world of the people's uprising against Ferdinand Marcos, after his soldiers bombed its transmitters in Bulacan province, north of Manila.
I'm also happy to note that at the flag-raising ceremony at the People Power monument, led by Vice President Noli de Castro on Monday at 7:30 a.m., Alay sa Kawal Foundation will be one of two citizens' movements to be recognized (the other is Go Negosyo, a movement that seeks to liberate the people from poverty through entrepreneurship).
Alay sa Kawal Foundation was set up by yours truly and other professionals, led by Ambassador Ed Espiritu and lawyer Ramon Pedrosa, as a civilian effort to reach out to the Armed Forces of the Philippines after EDSA People Power I, through its main program of extending financial support to the widows and orphans of soldiers killed or maimed in action.
The activities also include a wreath-laying at Libingan ng mga Bayani [Cemetery of Heroes] on Friday at 7:30 a.m., to be led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the 5:30 p.m. EDSA People Power I commemorative Mass at the EDSA Shrine on Sunday, Feb. 24, followed by a procession of Marian images, including a flower-festooned tank where the Lady of EDSA will ride, and a barrio fiesta.