Lozada arrested, detained

MANILA, Philippines – The man who blew the whistle on the controversial national broadband network (NBN) deal that implicated several high government officials was arrested yesterday on charges of perjury.

Former government consultant Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada Jr. was arrested yesterday by members of the Manila Police District (MPD) who served the warrant a day after it was issued by the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court.

Lozada did not resist arrest when he was picked up by the lawmen from De la Salle Greenhills in San Juan City. He refused to post bail for his release.

The arresting lawmen led by SPO4 Alfredo Valenzuela and SPO2 Pedro Flores had to wait for 20 minutes for Lozada to emerge with his lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno.

“I only need a lawyer to make sure that everything is correct. I would accept the arrest warrant without qualms,” Lozada said.

Lozada yielded peacefully and was accompanied by numerous supporters who followed the police convoy to the MPD headquarters in Manila.

Police said Lozada would be temporarily detained at the office of the Detective Jail Management Section awaiting the commitment order from the court for transfer to the Manila City Jail.

Former presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada said they were saddened that Lozada was arrested for merely telling the truth.

Mrs. Aquino said Lozada became “a victim of injustice.”

“I’m deeply saddened by the news that Mr. Jun Lozada has been placed under arrest on allegations of perjury. I shall pray for him that he may be delivered from harm and injustice.”

Mrs. Aquino said Lozada’s arrest “serves to intimidate those who fight for the truth, fairness and decency in our society.”

“I appeal to all freedom-loving Filipinos to support Mr. Jun Lozada in every way possible and to make it known loud and clear that he is not alone,” she said.

Estrada also urged support for Lozada, saying his arrest was obviously politically motivated.

“This is obviously politics. Why should you arrest a man for speaking the truth? All of us are supporting him. I urge all Filipinos to join Jun Lozada,” Estrada said.

Lozada’s arrest stemmed from the perjury complaint filed by Philippine National Railroad (PNR) chairman Michael Defensor alleging that the former government consultant lied in his testimony before the Court of Appeals in the petition for habeas corpus last year.

Lozada allegedly stated that Defensor tried to convince him to retract his claims that he was abducted to keep him from testifying in the Senate on the NBN deal.

Officials had said the snatch was a move to protect Lozada from threats. He was released hours after he was supposedly kidnapped, after his wife made frantic appeals through media.

Lozada alleged he was offered P50,000 by Defensor to retract his statement that he was snatched at the airport upon arrival from abroad, as well as to deny that he knew the details surrounding the NBN deal. Defensor, who served as President Arroyo’s chief of staff when the NBN deal broke out, denied the allegations.

He said that on Feb. 8, 2008, he appeared before the Senate to explain his participation in the alleged kidnapping of Lozada.

He said he only knew about the alleged kidnapping of Lozada from news reports.

When he found out that Lozada took refuge at the De La Salle Dormitory in Greenhills, Defensor said he immediately went there to confirm the reports.

‘Those who tell the truth end up in jail’

“Out of the many of us (who were mentioned in the NBN-ZTE deal) I was the only one arrested, while FG (the nickname given to Mr. Arroyo) and Abalos, no one filed cases against them… In our history, those who tell the truth end up in jail,” Lozada said.

Lozada added he would not post bail and would allow himself to be detained in order to make a statement.

“I will stand up for what I believe is right. I am ready to face the (perjury) charges filed against me. This is the only way I know that I could protest without violating the law,” he said.

Defensor said yesterday that he has no intention of sending Lozada to jail.

“I just want him (Lozada) to rectify his conflicting statements before the Court of Appeals and the Senate,” he said.

Defensor denied the arrest was politically motivated and stressed he just wanted to clear his name on the kidnapping issue and allegations of cover up.

Malacañang denied yesterday any involvement in the arrest of Lozada and said the issue should be left for the courts to decide.

“Considering separation of powers, we are not in a position to influence the issuance of a warrant, neither can we order it (arrest) withheld,” Remonde said.

Lozada, on the other hand, lamented that he was being arrested for telling the truth.

Lozada previously worked as a government consultant on the $329-million NBN contract with China’s ZTE Corp.

Lozada had alleged former elections chief Benjamin Abalos acted as a broker for the contract.

He became a key witness in the scandal and went on to implicate First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo during the Senate inquiry over the deal.

Senators slam arrest

Senators also slammed the arrest as a form of harassment.

Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr. Jinggoy Estrada, Francis Pangilinan, Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, Manuel Roxas II, Francis Escudero and Panfilo Lacson said it was ironic that Lozada is being arrested for lying even after exposing a scandal implicating several personalities that have not been charged in court.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the Senate could not offer any more protection to Lozada after the security provided him by the chamber during the NBN scam hearings had been withdrawn.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue committee that investigated the NBN scam, said the Senate could only oversee Lozada’s turn over to authorities.

“If he does not want to post bail because he does not have money, I am willing to help,” Gordon said.

Pimentel said Lozada would have to face the charges even if it were meant to harass him.

“He will have to face the music but of course, we see it as a part of the harassment of whistleblowers. What’s bad here is that the whistleblower is the one who gets jailed. That’s really something that should not happen in a civilized democratic society,” he said.

Pimentel said the arrest of Lozada was meant “to silence those who might be tempted to speak out openly.”

Pangilinan and Escudero also questioned why Defensor had to be the one to press charges against Lozada.

Escudero called on Defensor to withdraw the charges “in the interest of justice.”

The Makati Business Club (MBC) also rallied support for Lozada.

In a statement, the MBC said it was ironic that Lozada ends up being jailed while the principal players in the NBN scam are yet to be charged in court.

“It is highly ironic that while Mr. Lozada’s testimony is now being used against him, the persons implicated in his testimony are still immune from prosecution,” the MBC said.

Source: www.philstar.com


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