MANILA, Philippines -- The Ateneo Blue Eagles and the De La Salle Green Archers, bitter rivals on the basketball court, are setting aside their differences Sunday as the two Catholic schools come together to offer Mass and support to Senate witness Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada, Jr. and his family.
Bro. Armin Luistro, president of the De La Salle University and former brother provincial of the Brothers, said they expect at least 2,000 people to attend the 10 a.m. Mass at the La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) in Mandaluyong City.
Jesuit priest Fr. Manoling Francisco will officiate the Mass, which will also feature a choir from the Ateneo de Manila University. ?He will lead the homily and the choir,? Luistro said.
Bro. Javy Alpasa, of the Ateneo-based Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, confirmed that they are part of the activity. Aside from SLB, Ateneo groups such as Watch and Pray and the Ateneo Human Rights Center are also expected to attend, organizers said.
Alpasa said the Ateneo community will also hold a mass in Katipunan in the afternoon as part of the school?s campaign to promote truth and accountability in the government.
Lozada, a former government functionary and consultant, tagged ex-elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., a close ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as the one who caused the overpricing of the $329-million national broadband network deal between the Arroyo government and Chinese firm ZTE Corp. Lozada said Abalos demanded a kickback of $130 million, which skyrocketed the project?s price.
Lozada also implicated First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in the deal, saying Abalos once consulted Arroyo about the project.
Lozada was the second person to implicate the two in the now-scrapped NBN-ZTE deal. Businessman Jose ?Joey? De Venecia III said Abalos, the Arroyos, and their Malacañang followers were supposed to divide the commission among themselves.
LSGH became the home of the Lozada family, who requested the Brothers? protection for security reasons. The brothers of LSGH and other members of the religious community also helped Lozada set up his dawn press conference two days after he arrived in Manila from Hong Kong and fetched by airport police on February 5.
Luistro said the gathering was the idea of former President Corazon Aquino, who visited and offered support to Lozada after his Senate testimony last week.
?The idea came from Mrs. Aquino. She was the one who conceptualized it. The concept was to show support to the family and Jun. It?s a big clan and the family went through a lot of agony,? he said in a phone interview.
Carmen Lozada, the witness? sister, said everyone is invited to join them. ?This Mass is for truth. This will be a classless crowd. This is for all Filipinos looking for truth,? she said.
The Mass for the Lozadas came two days after the multi-sectoral indignation rally against systematic corruption in the government attended by around 10,000 members of militant groups, civil society organizations, and religious communities. Luistro said they do not expect the activity to escalate into a similar demonstration.
Luistro said the gathering is not a venue for politicians to vent their ire against the government. ?The Mass is just a Mass,? he said, noting that they have not scheduled any activity afterward. After the Eucharist, Luistro said they just expect a representative of the family to give a short speech.
Luistro said the religious community behind the gathering did not send text invites to politicians, although many have expressed their desire to attend. ?They are coming on their own,? he said. However, Luistro said the focus will not be on them.
Most of the people they asked to join them on Sunday were officials and students of Catholic schools, Luistro said.
If politicians who join them will want to give a statement, they should do it outside the gym, he added.
Organizers said they expect Aquino and Lozada to be present for today?s affair. Carmen said her brother will certainly be there. She said Lozada?s five children -- four of whom are LSGH students -- are not expected to hear the Mass with their father for security reasons.
Luistro said they have ?beefed up? the security in the LSGH campus because they expect more crowds than the gym can handle.
He added that they have requested the nuns from various orders to come early and help in the security preparations and crowd control. ?At this time, we cannot trust anyone. We asked the sisters to come early and help us,? he said.