RODOLFO Noel “Jun” Lozada, the whistleblower in the controversial broadband deal with China during the Arroyo administration, was found guilty of graft on Tuesday for awarding a lease over public land to his brother without an auction.
The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division convicted Lozada and brother Jose Orlando to up to 10 years in prison over the alleged anomalous award of the leasehold right in 2007, when the former was president of the state-owned Philippine Forest Corp. (PhilForest). Lozada was also disqualified from public office.
After the promulgation of the court’s 27-page decision on Tuesday, the brothers posted an additional P30,000 bail each for their provisional liberty, while they still have the opportunity to file a motion for reconsideration.
The Ombudsman filed the case with the Sandiganbayan in 2012, alleging that Lozada awarded the 25-year leasehold right over 6.599 hectares of public land under PhilForest’s “Lupang Hinirang Program” to his brother without going through the application process and an auction.
The Lozada brothers had pointed to PhilForest’s Resolution No. 15 dated September 24, 2007, allocating for lease 200 hectares of forest lands within the resettlement area of the Laiban Dam Project to its officials, staff and personnel.
But the court said this required an auction, and argued that even if the auction process was not required, Orlando was not qualified because he was merely a consultant, not an employee.
“In allowing his brother, accused Orlando, to apply for tenurial rights under the Lupang Hinirang Project under Resolution No. 15, accused Rodolfo Lozada acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith,” the court said.
Lozada, who blew the whistle on the $329-million national broadband network deal in 2008, told reporters: “Naturally, it’s difficult for me. All I can say is it is difficult to love the country.”
“I’ll just offer this suffering as my own form of sacrifice for this country,” Lozada, who was accompanied by religious sisters who have been supporting him for years, said.
“That’s just the way it is, perhaps this is really the fate of an ordinary Filipino,” he added.
Asked if he will appeal the decision, Lozada said he would “exhaust all possible legal means.”
Lozada however was acquitted in a similar case over the award of a leasehold right to Transforma Quinta, Inc. in 2007 to 2008.
The Ombudsman alleged that Lozada had financial or pecuniary interest in Transforma Quinta because he and his wife had been appointed by the company to be its representatives in certain financial and banking transactions.
But the court said “the prosecution’s evidence was not able to establish the guilt of accused Rodolfo Lozada beyond reasonable doubt.”
Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg penned the ruling, which was concurred in by Associate Justice Jose Hernandez, who leads the court’s Fourth Division, and Associate Justice Alex Quiroz.