Saturday, April 12, 2008

Heroes Happen Here

Yesterday, April 10, Microsoft launched their new wave of technologies in the Philippines using their global theme, “Heroes happen here.”

I can’t help but think how inappropriate the theme is for our country.

After reading Fr. Intengan’s ZTE Primer document, I find it hard to imagine how heroes can ever happen in this country. In the guise of shedding light on the controversial deal, Fr. Intengan suggests 3 things:

1) That Jun Lozada lied when he claimed he was abducted; this, of course, assumes that the government account of the incident is true

2) That Jun Lozada’s and the other whistleblowers’ testimonies are all hearsay and therefore have no value

3) That the Senate hearings should now be stopped and charges in court should be filed instead.

Under ordinary times, Intengan’s primer might resonate among peace-loving and decent people. But when you have a president embroiled in serious charges of corruption and cheating, and who uses stonewalling, lying and deceit to respond to these charges, it takes an extraordinary leap of faith or supreme naivete to expect relief from a dysfunctional judicial system.

I have 3 simple questions for Fr. Intengan: If the First Gentleman threatened you by shouting in your face “Back off”, will you have the courage to make it public, considering that he is the husband of the most powerful person in the country? Will you file charges of grave threat in a court of law? Or will you wait for a signed confession by FG or affidavits by others present during the incident attesting to the truth of your charges before filing a case in court?

Incidentally, the ZTE Primer was distributed to students of Fr. Intengan’s class on Sexual Ethics at Ateneo some time in March. During the class, Intengan declared that Lozada was part of a destabilization plot and his kidnapping was a hoax. He also played the wiretapped conversation between Jun Lozada and Joey de Venecia. And to think that Intengan advocates the rule of law in his primer (see the last paragraph of the attached primer).

What saddens me is the fact that there are actually some people who believe Intengan. And for what reasons? Because Jun Lozada is always smiling when on TV? Because he seems to be enjoying the limelight and his newfound celebrity status? Because he is going around the country to share his story? Because he has gone beyond the Probinsiyanong Intsik image that has endeared him to the people?

Because of these, you are all too willing to gloss over the truth he has revealed and the heroic sacrifice he and others before him had to go through as the price for the truth.

And yet, we are quite liberal in making heroes of other people with less than noble purposes.

We reluctantly accepted Chavit Singson as a hero, because he conveniently supported our desire to rid our nation of an immoral president. But we cannot accept Jun as a hero, because we’re not ready to rid our nation of an amoral president. Why? Because GMA’s successor could be worse. Because the economy is doing well, at least on paper. Because 2010 is just around the corner. Why can’t we just wait? And these, even if we believe that she probably cheated, that she and FG are probably involved in corruption, and that she and her cabinet members have lied brazenly to cover up the truth.

We routinely make a hero of taxi drivers who return oodles of money left by passengers in their cabs. It is the most unnatural thing to do in this country, and is therefore considered heroic. But we cannot make Jun a hero for telling the truth at heroic costs, even though that too has become the most unnatural thing to do in this country. Why? Because it might lead to a regime change. Because GMA’s successor could be worse. Because…

We proudly call our OFWs our modern-day heroes for their heroic sacrifices, although I have yet to hear an OFW say, “I will work abroad so I can help make the country better”. For the most part, they do so for the survival of their family. But we cannot proudly call Jun a hero, even though the easiest thing for him to do for the survival of his family was to keep silent. And yet he spoke the truth, precisely to do his share in making this country a little better. Why can’t we make Jun a hero? Because the country may not end up getting better. Because GMA’s successor could be worse. Because…

We lavishly praise Pacquiao to be our hero, for indeed he gives pride to our country every time he wins. But he trains and fights hard to win, mostly for the prize money (that’s what professionals do), and reaping pride for the country is an incidental, though happy, consequence for our nation. But we cannot praise Jun, not even scantily, to be our hero, even though he inspired pride for our country amongst the youth for rejecting the prize money offered him in exchange for his silence. Why? Because it’s possible we may not be proud of what happens after a regime change. Because GMA’s successor could be worse Because…

I share with you Jun’s reflections 2 months after he came out (see attached document below) so you might understand a little better the suffering he continues to go through as the cost of doing the right thing. I echo Jun’s challenge: before you judge him, you should ask yourself – “What have I done for the country?”

If you say you contribute to the well-being of this nation by, first, being a good provider for your family, and then, by contributing to the community through Gawad Kalinga and other civic projects – that’s well and good. And you might even add, let’s not get involved with politics or anything that might imperil the perceived stability of our government.

Jun, too, could have done the same thing – avoid the Senate at all cost so he can continue to be a good provider for his family, so he can help the underprivileged through his work at PhilForest, and so he might not shake the perceived stability of our government. That would have been well and good. But he decided to go beyond what is good. He decided to do what is right by exposing the evil and demanding accountability, even if it meant instability to his life, to wake up a people in stupor – ready to accept evil, thinking that doing good will drown out the evil.

And so I ask the final question – If you were in Jun’s place, would you have done good or right?

The advertising application of Microsoft’s launch theme is quite interesting. “Heroes happen here” is usually followed by a pair of curly brackets like this { }. Visually, the brackets are used to frame an ordinary person, to single him out of a crowd. The message is simple: ordinary people can do extraordinary things when equipped with the right tools (of course, from Microsoft).

That can very well apply to our times. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, propelled by the right heart and mindset – to do, not just what is good, but what is right. And it starts with you and me.

Are you ready to put your name inside the curly brackets?

Heroes happen here { }

God bless,


My reflections on my 2nd month of Calvary
Paying the price of Truth
By Jun Lozada

Life in the Hot Seat

I left Manila for Hong Kong upon the instruction of the office of the Executive Secretary with the person of Deputy Executive Secretary Gaite arranging the ante‐dating of my documents with DENR Sec. Lito Atienza to legitimize my travel to avoid my appearance at the Senate last Jan. 29, 2008. It is now exactly two months from that fateful January morning to today March 29, 2008, two calendar months time but almost equivalent to an entire lifetime for me and my family, for our former tranquil family life is now like a mirage in the desert, it may appear to be there but only to disappear when you come closer to it.

Why did they want to kill me?

The GMA administration must have really feared so much what I know of the corruption under her administration that when I came back to Manila last Feb. 05, 2008, I was taken forcibly by unidentified men led by a man which I would know later as Gen. Atutubo, the Asst. Gen. Mngr. Of the NAIA for Security, the same man who made a slashing gesture on his neck when turn around to face the CCTV camera at the NAIA, I was brought by these mystery men to Cavite and Laguna with intention to kill me and silenced me for good. How I survived was a story of grit and divine grace, how my wife and my sister was able to contact & be put “on the air” by the radio stations after they were alerted by our brother who was trying to pursue me from the NAIA, how the religious reacted when I was lost and how the Senate President demanded from the PNP to produce me was something that nobody can put together , but in the end it was Media that actually saved my life as I have heard it myself “Ibalik na natin to at masyado na raw mainit ang media”, Thank you Media, especially the AM radio and TV for looking for me that fateful afternoon of February 05 of 2008.

The lies begins

I was forced to write in my own handwriting an official request for security addressed to the Chief PNP Gen. Sonny Razon by the unidentified men upon instruction given over the phone by their superior, who was the same person who angrily told me to stop texting my location and turn off my phone, who introduced himself to me as George. I remembered Sec. Atienza calling up the man and asked that the phone be handed to me, to tell me that everything is ok and that I am free to go home, then Sec. Neri called me up as well to tell me to calm down my wife because its creating a media hype already. But my captors have a different idea, they brought me instead to Libis, Q.C. and there I met a lawyer hired by Deputy Executive Secretary Manny Gaite of Malacaňang to draft my false affidavit and be forced to sign it under duress of Col. Paul Mascariňas of the PNP the following day, while at the same time, Gen. Razon the PNP Chief was busy changing his story of where I was and how I ended up in their custody, up until the very end when I spoke with Mike Defensor who was convincing me to have a press conference to deny that I was abducted and deny any involvement with the NBN ZTE deal, kasi nasasaktan na si Mam o kung kokontra ka eh “tatrabuhin ka lang naman naming sa media!”, a threat which is in full steam and venom right now, courtesy of malacaňang mercenaries disguised as journalist and their special operatives handlers. This highly paid group has successfully buried the kidnapping and attempted rub‐out case under a rubble of lies that they unceasingly manufacture against me, from poison letters, komiks, media attacks to black propaganda special operatives, waiting to pounce on every opportunity they can to destroy the trust that the public may have given me.

The Reluctant witness, I do not want to be a Hero!

The first Senate hearing was really a gut wrenching experience, I was physically exhausted from lack of sleep for almost a week, I was not able to eat well for two days before the hearing, my nerves are wracked from psychological tension, I was afraid of the consequences of what I am going to say for myself, my family, my career, my reputation and my future. And I was fearful of what the GMA cabal will do to me for what I was about to do, knowing fully well their vindictiveness on their enemies which I was to become.

My hands were shaking when I was taking the oath to tell the truth to God and to the country, it was almost ten hours of agonizing discourse with the senators, with questions ranging from the profound to the ridiculous, some with empathy some with malice and spite, altogether it was an experience that I do not wish upon anyone else.

The succeeding ones were not as grueling as the first but as demanding in terms of defending the truth from those who attacked it and wish to destroy it with their lies, I was at first polite being once a colleague of these men, but was forced to be more resolute in rebutting their lies when they shamelessly heaped upon the senators and the viewing public lies upon lies upon lies, which they themselves were contradicting in their own testimonies. I must admit that I was ambivalent between having pity on them for what they were doing against their conscience and scorn for them for blatant kapal ng mukha in telling all of these lies as if all the Filipino are stupid, at the end, I just left all to God who knows the truth even in the hearts of men and prayed that I just be left in his peace despite all the fury around me.

The Days between the hearings, invitations to speak!

The Association of the Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, known as the AMRSP, who provided the Sanctuary to my young family and moral support to me during the entire period from Feb. 05, 08 to the present, started receiving invitations from the different schools and universities beginning initially from members of the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines, known as CEAP, then even from non-sectarian universities such as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and the Phil. Normal University (PNU), then a series of Sunday masses called the “Mass for Truth” was launched by the Watch, Pray and Act movement (WPA), The Religious of the AMRSP consulted the Blue Ribbon Committee if I would be allowed to go to these activities, which the senate agreed to allow under the condition that the Senate Security be given the overall security responsibility for my safety.

No Strategy, No Campaign

There is no strategy or a campaign, it was just a spontaneous response to an outpouring of support from the different sectors of society particularly from the youth. We don’t even have a prepared speech when we go to the schools just for me to be physically present is sometimes enough for the youth to feel in solidarity with what I did and what I stood for and that is “No more to corruption and greed!”.

There is no guideline either, sometimes we get to face a boisterous mob, sometimes we get to face a few people listening intently. Government propagandist are alarmed with the kind of warm reception I am having from the young people and they are immediately countering with all sorts of black propaganda that I am now on the political campaign trail for 2010, and to my surprise many people did actually buy this propaganda until they actually spoke with me and realized that they were again fooled once again by the sorcerer of the administration. As I have said many times over, all I want is to do after this is over and I’m hopefully in one piece is to put up a chicken inasal business, but on a more serious note, let me categorically state that I am not running for any electoral position on 2010.

No Politico, No Funding

One of the favourite lie by the GMA administration that is being ably spread by the National Security Council and its religious cohorts headed by Norberto Gonzales, is that I am a pakawala of certain politicians particularly Lacson & De Venicia, that I am receiving funds from these politicians handlers. I use to take it lightly until some of my close friends in the religious community who were attending theology classes being handled by the ideological twin of Gonzales in a university in katipunan, started telling me of how this Priest professor was actually using wiretapped conversations of me to deceive his students in moral theology that Jun Lozada is such a wily person who has outwitted the entire nation by staging his own kidnapping, rescue and even his senate appearance, and in the process has fooled the entire government machinery and its big wigs such as Sec. Atienza, Mike Defensor, Manny Gaite, Atty. Tony Bautista, Gen. Sonny Razon, The PSG, The PNP’s Col. Mascariňas and his minions, what a tall tale this religious is telling, sobrang galing ko naman na malansi ko lahat itong mga madudunong na taong ito at sabay sabay pa. Then I was told that he is doing the same presentation when he does the retreat for some religious congregation, that is why I am now not surprised when officiating priests in our celebration of the mass will show me texts from their brother priests telling them not to be used by Lozada and his politician handlers, and much to my relief these priests who have actually heard me share my personal reflections would assure me that they will be the one to set right their misinformed brothers of their community.

In fact one of the best kept secret of my present predicament which I was not sharing with the public until I had the permission of the AMRSP is that one of the conditions of their sanctuary protection being provided for my family, is that I should not be associated with any political party or with any political figure or else they will be forced to take us out of their sanctuary program. I am 24/7 together with the religious brothers and sisters of the AMRSP who monitors who comes to visit and where I can go, I guess those who are not sure if they are being misled by these government propagandist can easily verify this information by calling the AMRSP National Office at 725-3478 and look for Sr.Estrella Castalone, FMA, Sr. Cres Lucero, SFIC or Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB.

All expense for our trips are to be paid for by the organization who invites us, is one of the major conditions for our acceptance of an invitation.

Public smiles, Private agonies

The media portrays me in a smiling and seemingly enjoying a new found fame in the public eye, but what media fails to portray is the private sufferings of myself and my family from the ceaseless harassment from death threats, character demolition, legal suits to black propaganda, the pain of seeing my children crying their hurts out upon seeing the news of my past mistake, the frustration to see my boys lost out their academic honors because they were able to go school for almost a month, to share the pain of my children who were ostracized by their barkada’s parents at baka madamay pa sila sa gulo ni Lozada, the discomfort of not being able to stay in your own home, the fear for the physical security of my family, the insecurity of not being able to work out a living with a family to raise and the uncertainty of having a normal family life ever again.

To those who gets turned off when they see me on media portrayed like a politico, ako po ay humihingi ng paumanhin dahil ako ay walang training o pagsasanay, pero kayo kaya lumagay sa kalagayan ko? Pinagdudusahan ko na nga at ng aking pamilya ang pasiya kong maglingkod sa Bayan, ako pa ang sisihin ninyo dahil nakangiti ako pag nasa labas? I do not want to be self righteous, but may I ask you to reflect on these questions before you judge me?

• What have you done to correct corruption?
• What have you given up to fight corruption?
• What have you gained from corruption?
• What have you done to uplift the victims of corruption?

Or are you one of those who will simply turn your back on corruption without trying to correct and you rationalize your inaction to fight corruption with such thoughts as “basta ako mabuti, hayaan mo na silang masasama dyan” or “Hayaan mo na sila baka madamay pa tayo sa gulo” and other similar excuses?

Sharing my Personal Reflections, Let the light into the Dark

Let me share with you now in writing my personal reflections similar to what I share with the students and parishioners when I talked to them during my visit, an act purely out of my own personal conviction as a Christian, of living up to the teaching “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”.

What is it in these reflections that the administration propagandist find so alarming I really do not know, although I suspect that they are afraid that these reflections may encourage many more people to go to the Light and uphold the truth that they know as well, and in the process shed light on the darkness that pervades the government and expose more of these corrupt transactions that has long been kept from the people.

Here is the first of the four lessons that I share with the people that they may avoid the same suffering that I am undergoing through right now because of my decision to tell the piece of truth that I know about the NBN ZTE deal.

1. If you know someone who wants to tell the truth, encourage them – Because from my own personal experience, nobody told me or encourage me to tell the truth when I was seeking the advice of my family, friends, colleagues, including the religious. What was worse is that I was even the one that was being asked to defend and justify my position why I wanted to tell the truth. I felt so alone then and sad that in our society, kung sino pa ang gusting magsabi ng totoo, siya pa ang dapat magpaliwanag bakit, hindi ba baliktad? Hindi ba ang dapat ay ang mga nagsisinungaling ang dapat pinag papaliwanag natin? Katulad ngayon, ako ang nagsabi ng totoo pero ako ang nagtatago kasama pati pamilya, samantalang yung mga nagsisinungaling ay malayang nakakauwi sa mala‐palasyong bahay nila, malayang nakakapunta sa mga gusto nilang puntahan, malayang kasuhan ako ng kahit na anong kasinungalingan, pero walang humihingi sa kanila na ipaliwanag nga nila yung mga balu‐baluktot na testimonia nila sa Senado. Napakalungkot na kalagayan na ito para isang bayan naturingan pang karamihan ay Kristiyano. Ipakita po natin sa ating kapwa na tayo ay handang sumuporta at umalalay sa mga gustong gumawa ng mabuti at mag sabi ng totoo.

2. Do not tolerate corruption, because by tolerating it you are actually participating in it – The second lesson I have learned is that in our Filipino society of today, we tolerate corruption and crime as long as our family is not affected. We tolerate corruption and crime in the name of peace, yung attitude na huwag ka ng makialam at baka madamay pa tayo. We tolerate corruption and crime by rationalizing that as long as we mean well to our fellowmen & in all self righteousness washed our hands with these crimes by saying “basta tayong pamilya ay mabuti hayaan mo na silang masasama gawin ang kalokohan nila!”. It is similar to turning your back when you see a victim being raped, you knew a crime is being committed but you did nothing dahil baka madamay ka pa sa gulo, at nagsawalang kibo ka ulit nung nakita mong ninanakawan at pinapatay yung ibang tao sa ibang parte ng bansa, tapos nagsawalang kibo ka ulit nung ninakawan at napatay yung kapitbahay mo, ng dumating ang araw na ikaw at ang pamilya mo naman ang nabiktima ng mga magnanakaw at mamatay tao, nakita mo na wala ring kumibo para tulungan ka at iyong pamilya. Ganito na ang kalagayan n gating lipunan, wala ng Samaritanong gusting tumulong sa mga nabibiktima ng mga magnanakaw at mamamatay tao. What is worse with tolerating corruption is that those who tolerate it later on becomes part of the corruption, after a little more while then they become the purveyor of corruption themselves, kasi yan na lang ang paraan para umasenso. Ipakita natin na tayong mga Pilipino ay kayang kumilos laban sa mga masasama at pwedeng mamuhay ng marangal at Malaya laban sa korupsyon.

3. Teach the children to listen to their conscience and model to them acts of integrity – This is one of the lessons I learned from my interaction with the young people during my initial school visits and this question was commonly asked by the youth in different schools, “Sir Jun, among all the people we saw and heard on TV regarding the NBN‐ZTE deal, you are the one naman that we believe who is telling us the truth, but what we can not understand is why are you doing it? You have put your life in danger, you have put your family in harms way, you have lost your job, even your future is uncertain, why are you doing it? What will you get something in return? This question which is often asked with curious innocence and with no evident malice, which often will lead me to answer them that in life, there are certain things you must do because it is the right thing to do, because it is what your conscience dictates to be the right thing to do and often lead you to act in an honourable way, into an act of integrity and you do it without any consideration of money or material things in exchange. In fact, when I asked them if they still talk about honour & integrity with their parents, most of them will say “no!”, that is why it is important that parents should provide the children with a good role model. Although it may true that I did not receive money, material things or power in exchange for what I I did, I told them that I have receive something that is more valuable in return and that is the genuine affection of strangers, including the trust and respect of many people particularly the youth, I told them that no amount of money can ever buy the affection, trust & respect of the people.

4. You must accept your own truths as you go to the light of truth – More than the fear for my life, more than the fear for the safety of my family, more than the fear for my career and my livelihood, was the fear that if I decide to hold the light of truth, I cannot avoid being the first one to be shone upon by its light, I cannot avoid that my own blemishes in life, my secrets be exposed to the public. It was this fear of laying the truth of your entire life to the public, of accepting with humility the confession of your own truth to the entire nation, it was the greatest fear I have to overcome in wanting to tell the piece of truth that I possess in the NBN‐ZTE deal. Sino ba namang tao ang tumanda na walang nagawang kasalanan? But go on ahead with the truth, no matter how painful and difficult it may be, because based on my experience I have found that people and God are willing to forgive as long as you decide to go to the light, as long as you decide to tell the truth.

These are my reflections of my ordeal and the lessons I have learned over the last two months as a result of my decision to tell the truth of what I know about the NBN‐ZTE deal, with the aim of encouraging other people as well to come to the Light and allow the Light into their hearts that have been darkened by lies, evil and deceit, which has contributed to the poverty and suffering of our people.

Seeking the truth & Demanding for accountability & justice

I want to end this reflection paper with the same thought that I started with Seeking out the Truth, the people should exercise their sovereign right, the highest right of a Nation for this administration to put out the remaining pieces of the picture of truth of the NBN‐ZTE deal, I have paid and I’m still paying a very high price for the piece of truth that I have put out for the people to see. The failure of this administration to let out the other pieces of truth being held by the government, should lead to a demand for accountability by those who will be found betraying the trust of the people, for without truth and accountability there will be no justice in the land.
I have now come to realize, this is not about Jun Lozada, it is about every Filipino fighting for what is right against an unjust order, it is about every Filipino demanding from its government the truth amidst the lies & deceit, its about every Filipino rallying to battle against the evil that has long imprisoned the Filipino people.

And I have now finally understood what is the meaning of my sufferings for, I have paid the price of telling the Filipino something they have known all along and yet do not want to be told.


In sifting through the cacophony of accusations, countercharges, claims, denials, news and commentary regarding the NBN-ZTE controversy, it is essential to keep in mind certain facts and issues, to find truth amid conflicting allegations and hidden agenda.

What is the NBN-ZTE project?

• The national broadband network (NBN) was a project of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTe), which contracted the Chinese telecom company ZTE last April as supplier chosen by China under the loan accord for NBN.

• NBN-ZTE would set up a nationwide computer and telecom network linking national government agencies, state corporations and financial institutions, local governments down to 5thand 6thclass municipalities, and 23,000 barangay internet centers.

• Before it was canceled last October amid bribery allegations, NBN-ZTE was intended to cut government telecom costs, estimated by the Commission on Audit at P4 billion in 2004 for national agencies alone, with billions more for state firms and local governments, also to be covered by NBN.

• A government-only broadband system would also reduce calls and messages through public telecom networks, which are more prone to security breaches. And NBN-ZTE would bring information services to far-flung villages not served by private networks.

Why was the NBN-ZTE canceled?

• Through unproven, allegations of overpricing and bribery led President Gloria Arroyo to cancel the ZTE contract on October 2, 2007, with not one cent spent on it. She told DOTC to explore other ways to cut telecom costs, working with local firms.

• Overpricing and bribery charges were made mainly by Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, son of then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and failed proponent of a rival broadband proposal from his Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI), which DOTC did not favor.

• Commission on Higher Education Secretary Romulo Neri, former head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which evaluated major projects including NBN, also alleged a P200-million bribe offer to approve it.

Was the national broadband project overpriced?

• DOTC and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), which first evaluated NBN-ZTE, AHI and a third national broadband proposal, have maintained that NBN-ZTE was the best proposal in design and price.

• Comparing NBN-ZTE's $329-million cost with Joey de Venecia's $242-million AHI proposal, it should be noted that AHI would cover only 30% of municipalities up to 2nd and some 3rd class, against all municipalities up to 6th class for NBN-ZTE.

• The actual cost to the government of NBN-ZTE would be about $247million, which is the value in present-day money of repayments on the loan that would fund NBN, over 20 years at a low 3% interest with nothing to pay in the project's first five years.

• To reach all municipalities, the first ZTE proposal was expanded to 300 base stations from 40, and nearly 26,000 connections from 320. For this 80-fold expansion in facilities, the cost went up by just 25%, to $329 million from $262 million originally.

• Joey de Venecia argued that AHI's build-operate-transfer (BOT) project was cheaper because no public funds would be spent on it. But DOTC said the telecom fees that AHI would charge the government were more than the NBN-ZTE loan payments.

• Being a private venture, AHI must make a profit and would use commercial loans costlier than the China loan for NBN-ZTE. Moreover, since AHI would be an open public network, it is less secure that the government-only NBN-ZTE system.

• DOTC found AHI lacking in financial capacity with about $250,000 capital for its $242-million project, no technical expertise, and no telecom franchise. ZTE is a global telecom systems giant with huge broadband projects in different countries.

• Joey de Venecia and former broadband project consultant and resigned Philippine Forest Corp. president Rodolfo Lozada Jr. claimed that NBN-ZTE was overpriced to give resigned Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos a $130-million commission.

• No impartial study has been done to assess if NBN-ZTE was overpriced. Neri asked Lozada to do one, but the latter had not done so before he left the project. Joey de Venecia did his own report, with no industry data or supporting documents.

What about bribery?

• Three people linked to the project made bribery allegations, all denied by the accused. a) Losing proponent Joey de Venecia accused Abalos, reputed backer of the winning ZTE project, of offering him $10 million to withdraw his rival AHI proposal. b) Neri alleged that Abalos told him in a golf cart chat, "Sec. may 200 ka dito," which he believed was a bribe offer of P200 million for NEDA to approve NBN-ZTE. c) Lozada claimed that Abalos told him of the P200-million bribe offer to Neri.

• There is no other direct testimony of payoffs offered, sought or received. Amid the bribery allegations and a looming impeachment, Abalos quit as Comelec Chairman on October I, 2007. No non-partisan body has verified the accusations or subjected the accusers to cross-examination. Nor has any documentary proof of bribery been given.

Are there national leaders mentioned in the controversy?

• DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza said Speaker de Venecia asked him to meetings at his home, where his son lobbied for AHI. The Speaker admitted advocating a BOT mode for the broadband project. In his petition against the Speaker dismissed by the House, Atty. Roel Pulido cited Joey de Venecia's lobbying as violating the Constitution's ban on close relatives of high officials seeking government contracts.

• In his first Senate hearing, Joey de Venecia accused the First Gentleman (FG) of telling him to "back off' the broadband project. Weeks later, he claimed that tycoon Enrique Razon said FG would get payoff. FG and Razon denied these accusations.

• Lozada said Abalos spoke on the phone about NBN to someone who he said was Mike Arroyo, but Lozada did not hear the voice on the phone. FG denied involvement in NBN-ZTE, and DOTC and CICT officials said he never contacted them about it.

• Neri said he told the President about Abalos's apparent bribe offer. She instructed him to reject it, but continue evaluating the project. The Palace said she also ordered a discreet investigation of the bribery claim, which found no corroborating evidence. (A full probe would have put undue pressure on the Comelec head in an election year.)

• Lozada said Neri told him that the President removed water and housing from China loan projects to accommodate NBN. In fact, housing agencies did not use China funds because the interest rate would have increased their low mortgage charge. And the Laiban bulk water project for Metro Manila is still under evaluation.

• Joey de Venecia and Lozada have presented no evidence to corroborate their hearsay testimonies, and have yet to face cross-examination in a non-partisan judicial inquiry.

Is the government withholding information?

• The government says it has provided as much information as it can without violating laws and proprietary rights. DOTC even ran newspaper ads and was sued by the opposition for discussing the subject of its High Court petition to void the ZTE deal.

• Due to the opposition suit, the government was reluctant to discuss the project even in Congress, and the opposition repeatedly accused it of hiding the truth. Eventually, Neri, Mendoza, former CICT chairman Ramon Sales, and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya appeared in marathon Senate hearings, plus an executive session with Neri.

• Executive privilege and proprietary rights restricted some of the information from the government. As the Senate refused to do for its own executive session with Neri, the government does not disclose confidential discussions of the President and the Cabinet. This executive privilege also cloaks Supreme Court deliberations and Congress executive sessions, to allow full, free and unfettered discussions In shaping policies, laws and rulings. Such secrecy is lifted only when there is solid evidence of wrongdoing. In the Estrada plunder trial, presidential instructions to SSS and GSIS were revealed, but only after there were verified deposits of illicit stock commissions.

• Executive privilege was invoked for Neri's discussions with the President on NBN, and minutes of Cabinet-level meetings on it. Sen. Jamby Madrigal asked Neri if secrecy should be used to hide high crimes; Neri said he was not hiding high crimes.

• DOTC gave the Senate copies of the ZTE contract, including annexes containing proprietary information from the company, and the itemized list of all equipment to be purchased with quantities and unit prices. Despite ZTE's fears of its technology being disclosed, the Senate made those annexes public with the rest of the documents.

Was Lozada protected or abducted?

• There are two conflicting accounts of Lozada's trip abroad and return. One account, which some of Lozada's own statements affirm, is that he did not want to testify in the Senate due to death threats, and sought government help to legally avoid it. He went abroad on an official trip planned before the Senate's arrest order, and faxed a letter to Senator Juan Ponce Emile for the order to be lifted. He was provided security upon his return, requested by his direct superior, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, his sister Carmen, and himself. At his request, his escort brought him to La Salle Greenhills, where his family saw him hours after his arrival on Feb. 5. The next day, with a private lawyer, he made an affidavit to limit his testimony to technical matters.

• However, in his Feb. 7 early morning press conference and his Senate testimony the next day, Lozada said Atienza, Palace officials, and former Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor tried to stop or restrict his testimony. He and his family claimed that military and police abducted him upon arrival and held him against his will. He said the government made him do a letter and an affidavit limiting his testimony. He added that police forced him and his sister Carmen to sign requests for security.

• A thorough, unbiased inquiry and due process can help show which account is true. But even now, there is one indisputable fact, which Lozada himself has confirmed: he was brought by his escorts to La Salle at his request in the evening of Feb. 5, and his family saw him there that same night. Yet the family loudly proclaimed in media the next day that they could not find Lozada, and accused the PNP of kidnapping. They even petitioned the Supreme Court for writs of habeas corpus and amparo, demanding that the police produce Lozada. Some commentators now wonder if the family maligned the PNP to get back at it for the police killings of Lozada's brother in 2001, and to make the public pity him and accept his testimony even without proof.

What next for the NBN-ZTE controversy?

• Besides Abalos, the Senate may look into the de Venecias' involvement in NBN as well as Northrail and other China projects cited by Lozada. Sen. Emile once related that the former Speaker had asked him to let the Northrail project proceed.

• The Senate committee report on the aborted project may include proposed bills and recommendations for further investigation and prosecution by an impartial body.

• The Ombudsman can use the findings in probing the complaint filed last August against Abalos by opposition Congressman Carlos Padilla, over the project.

• As the President ordered last week, the Department of Justice will probe individuals with possible criminal liability in NBN-ZTE. DOJ expects to begin hearings using the transcript of Lozada's testimony and the Senate committee report.

• In weighing the highly politicized NBN-ZTE issue, rule of law and careful assessment of hard evidence by non-partisan bodies, are crucial. Revered legal luminary Jovito Salonga has called for charges to be filed in court. Let due process now shed light on NBN-ZTE.