Convicted Lozada fears ‘dreadful things’ with Arroyo now free
Whistleblower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr. on Wednesday said he feared “dreadful” things would happen to him now that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo has been released from detention.
Lozada made this statement after the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division convicted him of graft for awarding a lease contract to his brother causing injury to the government when he was president and chief executive officer of the state-owned Philippine Forest Corp. (PFC) in 2007 and 2008.
In an interview after the hearing, Lozada was asked how he felt that Arroyo, whose husband former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo was implicated in the National Broadband Network-ZTE deal anomaly, is back in Congress.
Arroyo was released after four years in detention after the Supreme Court dismissed her plunder case over a charity funds mess. Arroyo has since been elected Deputy Speaker for Central Luzon in the House of Representatives.
“When I got that, I was already concerned, na I could almost feel it coming. Dreadful things to come. Ganun talaga,” Lozada said.
Lozada had pointed to the Arroyos as the masterminds behind the scuttled NBN deal, and accused former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos of being the broker for the deal in exchange for commissions.
“When you have an opponent and your opponent is winning, it only means one thing — you’re losing,” Lozada said.
Lozada had tagged Abalos as the broker who allegedly pressured the National Economic Development Authority to approve the project.
Amsterdam Holdings President Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., had accused Mr. Arroyo of telling him to “back off” from the project so that ZTE would bag the contract.
Mr. Arroyo and Abalos denied the allegation.
Lozada as the star witness in the NBN case testified in the graft trial of Mr. Arroyo and Abalos, who allegedly used their influence to lobby for the broadband deal with China. Gloria Arroyo also faced graft and breach of ethical conduct in that case.
The court is set to rule on the three accused’s motion to demurrer to dismiss the evidence of the case.
Lozada, who was involved in the project as technical adviser to then National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Romulo Neri, alleged that Abalos lobbied for the ZTE Corp. to get the contract in exchange for a $130 million commission for the project.
Lozada also said the contract price for the project was signed by the government at $329 million, or $67 million more than the $262 million evaluation which Lozada himself had made as a technical adviser for Neri.
Mrs. Arroyo later cancelled the project after a scandal over its supposed overpricing and the alleged bribery of public officials erupted. The project would have interconnected government offices nationwide through broadband technology.
Mrs. Arroyo was charged with two counts of graft for approving the deal despite being allegedly disadvantageous to government and despite knowing its supposed irregularities. She was also accused of having personal gain in the contract.
The prosecution said among the anomalies Arroyo knew was the attempt of Abalos to bribe Neri with P200 million to immediately approve the project despite lack of public bidding.
Lastly, Arroyo was charged with one count of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees or Republic Act 6713 for having lunch and playing golf with ZTE officials while the broadband project proposal was still being assessed by government. JE/rga