Malacañang is providing security for whistle-blower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. but it cannot assure him of immunity from legal processes, a Palace spokesperson said yesterday.
In a radio interview, Undersecretary Abigail Valte said the Department of Justice had sent a security detail to guard Lozada, one of the key witnesses in the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Valte said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and other Cabinet secretaries met on Thursday with nuns belonging to the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) to whom Lozada turned for protection.
“The AMRSP expressed their concern for the safety of Mr. Lozada and his family, so Secretary De Lima agreed to provide (him) with a security detail,” said Valte.
Lozada had said that six armed men in plainclothes came to his house in Pasig City looking for him last week. Feeling harassed and scared, he returned to the protection of the AMRSP.
On Friday, De Lima told reporters she had given no orders to arrest Lozada, and that she had ordered an investigation into Lozada’s report of supposed NBI agents looking for him.
She said NBI agents were posted at the AMRSP safe house on Friday to guard Lozada and his family.
Valte said there were also calls for Palace intervention in the case of Lozada before the Sandiganbayan.
“But we made it clear from the very beginning that we can’t just do that,” she said, adding that the government could only address his security concerns.
On Jan. 23, the Sandiganbayan ordered Lozada arrested on graft charges in connection with leasehold rights he allegedly issued to his brother and to a private company when he was president of Philippine Forestry Corp. in 2007.
The case was filed in 2008 shortly after Lozada disclosed the alleged overprice in the Arroyo administration’s $329-million National Broadband Network contract that had been awarded to the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE. The contract was eventually scrapped by Arroyo.
Valte said the matter of Lozada receiving immunity was the call of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, whose office is prosecuting Lozada’s case and the plunder case against Arroyo.
“First, it’s not the (executive branch) that extends immunity. That depends on the Office of the Ombudsman—if it will apply (to the court) to make (him a) state witness in the case. We will leave to (the Ombudsman) those details since we don’t decide the (legal strategy) for the case,” Valte said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, confirmed over the weekend that he gave Lozada P30,000 (not P60,000 as earlier reported) to post bail six months ago.
Lacson said Lozada opted instead to question the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause to charge him with graft, claiming the case was a harassment suit initiated by the Arroyo administration. “Posting bail I suppose would render his petition moot,” Lacson said.
Lacson said Lozada didn’t seek financial support. The senator said it was he who contacted Lozada to offer his help.
First posted 7:24 pm | Saturday, February 9th, 2013