Six armed men in civilian clothes went looking for whistle-blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada in his house in Pasig City on Saturday and Monday.
The last time the men knocked on Lozada’s door, they introduced themselves as postal workers.
But the man who in 2008 exposed the alleged anomalous NBN-ZTE deal worth $329 million in the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration had left his house and taken refuge in the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP).
Lozada told the Inquirer on Thursday that he went to the AMRSP nuns following reports that he would be arrested, this time for a graft case filed against him by the former President’s allies. He said in a phone interview that he had never left the AMRSP’s sanctuary program.
“I just want to make it clear that the sisters did not take me back so that I could evade arrest,” he said. The nuns just do not want to take chances, he said.
Lozada recounted reports of witnesses of major cases being killed, citing the reported death of the man involved in the killing of environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega who had turned state witness. Dennis Aranas, who had served as a lookout in Ortega’s murder, was found dead in his cell at the Lucena Provincial Jail.
He said that the AMRSP had written Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima to coordinate with the nuns should police enforce the arrest warrant against him.
“They would rather err on being careful than err on being careless,” he said of the sisters.
Lozada said he would face the graft case against him but was unaware of news reports that the Sandiganbayan issued last Jan. 23 an arrest warrant for him.
Last year, Lozada was charged by the Office of the Ombudsman with graft for allegedly granting leasehold rights over public lands to his brother and to a private firm with connections to him and his wife when he was the president of Philippine Forest Corp. in 2007.
He said the witness against him was his former program manager, Erwin Santos. He said Santos was convinced by Arroyo to testify against him.
Lozada insisted the “real story” was that Santos, who was appointed by Arroyo as his replacement in Philippine Forest Corp., was reappointed by President Aquino. “I am just asking why President Aquino chose to take his side,” Lozada said.
He also said the documents he needed to defend himself were in the office of Santos.
Lozada lamented that the case against him came at a time when he was trying to “rebuild” his life. He said he wanted a private and normal life with his family after being harassed by the Arroyo administration.
Lozada blew the whistle on alleged anomalies in 2008 surrounding the National Broadband Network project with ZTE Corp. of China. Arroyo canceled the project to wire the Philippine bureaucracy digitally amid allegations that some of her officials received multimillion-peso kickbacks from Chinese officials.
Palace abides by process
Malacañang on Thursday said that Lozada had to comply with the Sandiganbayan’s warrant for his arrest.
“The charges against Jun Lozada were reviewed by the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman believes that there is sufficient basis to file charges against him. The Ombudsman is an independent body. There is very little that we can do to involve ourselves in that,” said Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.
“Certainly, I personally feel bad about what’s happening to Jun but there’s a process that has to be followed and, whether you’re a friend or a foe or neutral, we all have to abide by that process,” Carandang added.—With a report from TJ Burgonio