POSTSCRIPT / February 24, 2008 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Is Lozada only source of truth on NBN deal?

THE TRUTH: Everybody is demanding to know the Truth. But what is Truth?

We recall at this point the classic story of the blind men who were asked what an elephant is and, to be able to form an opinion, were made to touch the behemoth.

One blind man hugged one leg, another one touched an ear, another one held the tail, another one the trunk, et cetera. Each man then responded with his idea of what an elephant is, based on his limited access to it.

Engineer Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. was in a similar predicament when he performed in the Senate circus. As he groped the National Broadband Network elephant and some people involved in the behemoth project, he told the senators what the beast was.

His testimony did not, and could not, have given the entire picture of the $329-million deal. He could not have told the whole truth.

The reason is simple: Lozada is not the sole repository of the entire truth about the aborted project.

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MEDIA FRENZY: Lozada continues his performance outside the Senate, still talking of that part of the elephant that he had touched when he tagged along then NEDA Director General Romulo Neri as he processed the project.

Many observers are alarmed that with media having lionized him, Lozada is able to spread his partial version of the NBN story and peddle it as the entire truth.

Many sectors, including some Catholic bishops, have been carried by the pervasive power of multi-media.

Lozada’s being set up as a hero and the administration’s having been portrayed as the “evil” one have launched the media into a frenzy to outperform one another in Arroyo-bashing. Those who do not hit Malacanang are heckled as on the Palace payroll.

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ODD ITEMS: Some points stick out as bothersome:

  • On the basis of his moral principles as he expounded on them, Lozada would have found the overpriced NBN deal permissible if the commission demanded was only $65 million and not $130 million!
  • Lozada spent endless hours talking, but failed to submit documentary evidence proving any wrongdoing by anybody. Even in his post-Senate appearances, he has not been presenting evidence. He just talks.
  • If forwarded as-is to the Office of the Ombudsman, Lozada’s entire testimony in the Senate would be insufficient, by itself, to justify filing criminal charges on the NBN project.
  • Some senators denounced Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez as not objective enough. So why did they confirm her when she was before the Commission on Appointments? They are estopped from now challenging her competence.

* * *

BRIBERY & BLACKMAIL: In this bruising political game, there are “patriotic” funds for people willing to supply the opposition derogatory information against the administration.

Some P10-million was reportedly offered to Neri when he and Lozada met secretly last Dec. 7 with senators Ping Lacson and Jamby Madrigal. (Lozada had been meeting with Lacson before he testified before the Senate. What were they cooking?)

Failing bribery, Madrigal appears capable of blackmail. The public was appalled by her calling out to Neri on TV that he better testify otherwise she would be forced to divulge personal details about him.

Looking back, would senators have shown as much interest in the hearings if there was no TV coverage? I doubt it. Pull out the TV crew and attendance would drop, because the whole point is not love of country but love of publicity.

The same thing goes with Joey de Venecia, the businessman-son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia. My impression is that he divulged details of the NBN deal not out of love of country but in a bid to grab the contract despite his being not qualified.

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ZERO EVIDENCE: Lozada could have been telling the truth about things of which he had direct personal knowledge.

When he said he talked with former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos, for instance, we concede that it must be true, especially after Abalos confirmed it.

But it is another thing when he said Abalos told him this or that. That requires corroboration, especially on those points that the former poll chairman has denied.

Also, when he said that Abalos talked with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo on the phone, we must note that Lozada had no direct personal knowledge that they really did.

Lozada has not submitted any piece of evidence to back up his negative assertions about some individuals. It would be premature, if not downright irresponsible, for us to now accept his statements as gospel truth.

To some opposition senators, testimony that is favorable to the Arroyo administration must be false. But if the testimony is bad for President Arroyo, it must be true.

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CHAOS: This is not to say that Lozada has been lying. My main point is that he is just telling us about that small part of the elephant that he happened to touch.

It is dangerous that on the basis of partial, incomplete and unsubstantiated information, some quarters are now demanding the fall of the government. Medyo sobra na yata yan.

We have revered institutions for accepting and processing complaints, and for investigating and prosecuting persons accused of wrongdoing. We also have time-tested court rules for just and orderly processes.

We do not trust due process and these institutions? Then let us go where the anarchists are leading us: Chaos, civil strife, street mayhem, bloodshed.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 24, 2008)

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