Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reprinted from the May 6, 2009 issue of The Philippine Star

Defensor to be blamed if Lozada is harmed
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc Updated May 06, 2009 12:00 AM

The Manila police has moved ZTE scam whistleblower Jun Lozada from the warrant office to the detective jail. Acting chief Rodolfo Magtibay was dispelling rumors of treating special the popular Lozada, and so placed him in a real cell Monday. “He’s around common criminals,” moaned Sister Estrella Castalone, one of two-dozen nuns who have been bodyguarding Lozada since his aborted abduction in Feb. 2008. “General Magtibay assures us Jun will be safe ... but we do not know what will happen inside.” Given the state of Philippine jails, all the worst things can happen. Mike Defensor, who had charged Lozada with perjury, may be professing to want only to clear his name and not imprison him. But as a lawyer he knows that detention is a consequence of criminal suits. If harm befalls Lozada in jail, Defensor can only be blamed.

In fact Lozada fell ill minutes after being shoved into the company of killers and robbers. A doc had to be called in to check him for nausea. Low blood pressure and asthma also ail the former government consultant who confirmed the overpricing in the $329-million ZTE deal. A congested jail during Manila’s scorching summer isn’t the best place for a sickly 46-year-old to be in. Any untoward event will only highlight the injustice done him. Ever since Lozada revealed to the Senate last year the sordid details of the ZTE fraud, the Arroyo admin has slapped him and his wife with 16 court raps. Yet not one of those he had implicated — Gloria and Mike Arroyo, Romy Neri, Larry Mendoza, Peter Favila, Ben Abalos — has been indicted. Neither have those who bade or bribed him to evade or lie to senators — Defensor, Lito Atienza, Manuel Gaite. Ironically Lozada’s wife too has been sued for perjury, by the very police colonel he had accused of abducting him at the airport. More trouble arising from Lozada’s jailing will be bad for Defensor’s political career and incriminate his close pals, First Couple.

Even the judge trying Lozada’s perjury case thinks so. That’s why he is advising Defensor via a court notice to consider dropping the rap for his and the Arroyos’ sake. For if Defensor hasn’t weighed its outcome, the trial might cost him his political future, and the unease of the Arroyos being subpoenaed as witnesses.

Manila Judge Jorge Lorredo set Lozada’s arraignment for tomorrow. In the same memo, he set for Friday the police motion to transfer Lozada to the city jail and the Senate request for the detainee’s custody. The judge then took the opportunity to present some points for Defensor to ponder, like:

• Pressing the case would be political suicide because it could incite public hatred;
• It could cost Defensor his health, and make him suffer from serious ailment like Mike Arroyo “that he (Arroyo) is in no condition to attend Senate probes”;
• Lozada might call in the Arroyos as hostile witnesses, which would mean subpoenas being issued to compel them to appear in court;
• Failure to show up would mean issuing arrest warrants for the President and the First Gentleman; and
• If the police refuse to serve such warrants, the court might deputize other officials to do so, like Manila Mayor Fred Lim, or opposition Senators Ping Lacson and Antonio Trillanes IV. “They can arrest, handcuff, and put behind bars any fugitive.”

(Complete text of Judge Lorredo’s order at www.verafiles.org.)

* * *

Interestingly, while colleagues pillory Sen. Manny Villar for alleged financial fraud, his popularity continues to rise. In the latest SWS quarterly survey last Feb., he was still second to VP Noli de Castro as “best leader to succeed Arroyo in 2010.” It’s been that way since Sept. 2007.

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