BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Government critics from various political persuasions have condemned the arrest this afternoon of National Broadband Network (NBN) star witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada.
Lozada was arrested in connection with the July 4, 2008 perjury case filed against him by former Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor. He had testified under oath, at a Senate investigation, that Defensor had paid him P50,000 to retract his statement that airport and police personnel had abducted him upon his arrival from Hong Kong on Feb. 5, 2008.
“We strongly condemn the arrest of Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada,” said Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Liza Maza. “This only goes to show that under the Arroyo administration, whistleblowers and critics who are exposing corruption and anomalies in the government are systematically gagged and neutralized while criminals, executioners and rapists are shamelessly freed and rewarded with key positions in the government.”
Lozada, who was a technical consultant on the NBN deal between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE Corporation, testified at Senate investigations early last year on the controversial contract – confirming and adding detail to earlier allegations by businessman Jose “Joey” de Venecia III.
The NBN project is a $329-million contract that aims to connect government agencies throughout the Philippines through the Internet. Lozada revealed in Senate investigations that the NBN deal was overpriced by $130 million, and that it was “standard practice for government contracts” to be overpriced by 20 percent.
He also disclosed that presidential spouse Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo was involved in backchannel negotiations on the NBN deal. He confirmed the involvement of former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos in the contract, as well as his attempt to bribe Romulo Neri – who was director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) during negotiations on the project.
Lozada’s arrest is “proof that the Arroyo administration will do everything to make sure that the truth behind the scam will never be known,” De Venecia said.
Former President Corazon Aquino urged the Filipino people to stand behind the beleaguered Lozada. “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.
Evangelist Eddie Villanueva condemned the Arroyo administration for having “twisted and mangled the administration of justice” in the Philippines. “This truly is a sad, sad day for justice and democracy in our already blighted land under a leadership that has rightfully earned the dubious honor of being the most hated and most corrupt in our history,” he said.
Lozada is now detained at the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters. (Bulatlat.com)