JUN Lozada burst into the national scene about nine years ago with drama worthy of any great playwright. He was looked up then as a crusading hero against the overpricing of the National Broadband Network project awarded to China’s telecom giant ZTE.
Lozada reappeared this week in another dramatic moment, but this time for getting a court sentence of up to 10 years in jail for graft and corrupt practices. The anti-graft crusader has turned out to be one who doesn’t practice what he preaches. As one who covered his appearances at the Senate and followed his public statements, I wasn’t surprised at this turn of events for this glib-tongued “hero.”
He became the darling of the anti-Arroyo movement and of some sectors in the Catholic Church when he claimed he was kidnapped at the airport on his arrival from Hong Kong on Feb. 5, 2008 to prevent him from testifying on the NBN-ZTE deal.
He sought sanctuary at De La Salle-Greenhills and a writ of Amparo from the Court of Appeals, saying he feared for his life. The CA said after hearing the petition that Lozada wasn’t kidnapped and that he needed no writ of Amparo.
As known later, Lozada sought help from then DENR Sec. Lito Atienza for protection upon his arrival at NAIA from HK. Atienza asked PNP chief Avelino Razon to send security detail for Lozada. There was a miscommunication and Lozada didn’t get to know until much later that the policemen who met him were out to protect him.
The blasting to smithereens of the “kidnapping” yarn didn’t prevent him from squeezing the last drop of drama out of his testimony on the NBN-ZTE deal before the Senate blue ribbon committee.
He said he went to the house of Sen. Joker Arroyo and gave the impression that Joker’s wife, Fely, tried to convince him not to testify before the Senate. He omitted some details.
Businessman Antonio Abaya said he arranged the meeting between Lozada and Fely, also a lawyer, after Lozada had expressed fears of testifying before the Senate. Abaya said Mrs. Arroyo advised Lozada that he did not need to testify because he wasn’t being summoned by the Senate at that time (September 2007). Lozada confirmed Abaya’s version with nary a statement of remorse about his half-truths that gave the impression that Mrs. Arroyo wanted him to keep quiet about NBN-ZTE.
Lozada again hogged the headlines when he charged that Cardinal Vidal had issued an order preventing priests in Cebu from celebrating Holy Mass for him. Well, it turned out that Cardinal Vidal had issued no such order. That he made drama out of a supposed order without verifying it didn’t speak well of a man claiming to be on the side of truth.
The Senate assigned two security officers for Lozada, who continually expressed fears for his life. However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ordered a review after learning that Lozada had even played golf.
“If he could play golf, then he might no longer believe that there is an immediate threat to his life,” JPE said.
Lozada gave the impression of being a hot shot when he said he was a consultant for several NEDA projects, including the NBN. He lashed at the PNOC for rejecting his P500-million jatropha project proposal “when the government was entertaining overpriced projects like the NBN.”
He didn’t reveal that he merely offered a five-page presentation for his P500-million project proposal. He didn’t return when PNOC’s Dr. Rene Velasco asked him to prepare a more comprehensive presentation.
He even made drama around his son’s failure to land in the honor roll, saying it was a consequence of his quest for truth. He didn’t say that his son was a La Salle student and that La Sallite brothers and nuns had been helping him, for this would have made him less of a martyr.
Ah, but to show his honesty, he admitted that PhilForest, which he headed, had awarded contracts without public bidding and that it had imported 35 goats from Australia to see if they would also eat jatropha and not just grass.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said his “most damning admission” was his statement that a kickback of $65 million for the NBN would have been okay but not $130 million. “Bubukol,” Lozada famously said.
“That meant that if the kickback was only $65 million, he would have kept quiet and be an accomplice in the violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” she commented.
Despite these admissions and half-truths, several naive nuns maintained their trust in their hero. They accompanied him to the Sandiganbayan and one even wept when he was found guilty of graft.
And Lozada? Well, he continued to wax dramatic, even comparing his sentencing by the Sandiganbayan to that of Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate. And many religious continue to believe in him?