Aquino: No harassment of Lozada
President Aquino on Tuesday bristled at the claim that his administration was “harassing” Rodolfo Lozada Jr., but said that the whistle-blower had to face the graft charges filed against him by the Philippine Forest Corp. (PhilForest) like anybody else.
“The case he’s now facing was filed even before we took our seat. If he thinks he will be acquitted in the case, that’s not within my power [to oppose],” the President told reporters in Cavite City.
If he intervened in the case, the President said he could be haled to court. He said he did not intervene in the cases of Secretary Nereus Acosta and Elections Commissioner Grace Padaca, who are his party mates in the Liberal Party.
He said Malacañang had asked Lozada to list down the documents he needed to retrieve from PhilForest in order to clear his name, but he has not done so.
In April, members of religious and civil society groups expressed disillusionment with the President over his seeming lack of support for a whistle-blower.
Lozada was a crucial witness whose testimony on cost-padding and bribery led to the cancellaton of the $329-million national broadband network deal of the Arroyo administration with Chinese telecommunications company ZTE.
Lozada was recently ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan over a graft case filed by PhilForest president Erwin Santos. The whistle-blower complained that he had been forgotten and abandoned by the Aquino administration.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines said she was “disillusioned” with Aquino because he was “dismissive” of Lozada in a Feb. 18 meeting in Malacañang.
Aquino belied claims he was angry with Lozada for rejecting his offer (when he was a senator) to pick up Lozada from the airport and bring him to the Senate to testify in 2008.
Several senators have also appealed to the President to grant Lozada immunity from suit, saying that whistle-blowers needed to be given special treatment and protection in order to encourage more people to come out and testify against corruption.
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