Here is the transcript of his early morning press conference held at LaSalle Greenhills. Details in abash*t: The backstage of Rock Ed Philippines, in the entry Tired Brave Heart. and a photo page, JUN LOZADA, witness.
A background briefing by Newsbreak: Lozada: Benjamin Abalos and Mike Arroyo Behind Broadband Deal Overprice. A profile in the Inquirer: Just a ‘probinsyanong Intsik’
Lozada’s early morning presscon derailed plans in place by Michael Defensor to have held an afternoon press conference in which Lozada would then be made to read the government-prepared affidavits that out to lie any previous affidavits. That same evening, the President;s husband was obvious informed the coast is clear. Which have been the case if government minders hadn’t let down their guards and which allowed Lozada to contact friends who came forward and made the early morning press con possible.
late morning to mid-afternoon yesterday I was in the office of Senator Allan Peter Cayetano where Jun Lozada is being kept preparatory to his appearance before the Senate. It’s the first time I’ve encountered the man. He looked tired, his eye-bags were already purplish, and he was, understandably, rather high-strung, at times breaking down and sobbing as he recounted the ordeal he’s undergone -and which is continuing- and he said he was too tense to sleep and keep down his food properly. He had a firm handshake but his hand was clammy.
He will testify before the Senate, today, under oath, and so concerning the details of his being sent to Hong Kong, his stay there, his decision to come back, and what happened to him from the time the plane landed and he finally had his early morning press conference, we’ll all know his version of events soon enough.
What I did ponder upon, as I heard him recount recent events, is that there are many kinds of pressure that can be applied on a person to bend them to one’s will, and not all of them require brute force or overt threats.
Watching him and talking to him, I recalled something my father told me when I a small boy. I once asked him, what is courage? And he replied by telling me a story about his own father when they were on Corregidor. In the midst of the tunnel being shelled, he said his father spotted him cringing and biting his lip in fear; and his father told him that the truly brave man is not the man who doesn’t feel fear, but rather, the man who is filled with terror but does his duty anyway.
I can appreciate Lozada’s courage. Make no mistakes, he has faced among the worst kinds of peril I can imagine: a combined crisis of conscience, fears for his own life and that of his loved ones, the end of a career, the hostility of some friends and the harsh judgment of powerful patrons, uncertainty whether his answering the cries of his own conscience aren’t a foolhardy exercise. Being in such a pressure-cooker situation, contemplating the prospects of a kind of not only professional and financial suicide but of embarking on a sacrifice the public won’t even recognize -or possibly even deserve- whether at the end of a chain of events one initiated or in which one was swept up… Well, it’s enough to destroy anyone. His is the dilemma of a proud, perhaps overconfident man who has had to realize he is nowhere as clever, nimble, and important as he thought he was.
Let me explain what I mean by this, and these are all impressions.
To me, Lozada is no saint, or put another way, he represents the kind of man who finds himself at the center of great events, yet who could never have expected he would gain fame in such a perilous manner. He is the kind of man who doesn’t hold the actual power but who has access to those who wield power -and more importantly, has done so because he’s proven himself competent at certain things, and who thus holds a certain amount of authority.
And so, he is the kind of Useful Man who then believes that his competence and limited authority allows him to pull a kind of fast one in that, he can both tolerate a certain level of official wrongdoing, and yet accomplish something beneficial, because his efforts somehow mitigates the wrongdoing around him. (One of his more quotable quotes was his being advised by Neri to attend meetings to “moderate the greed” or words to that effect). Operating in a perpetual moral twilight, thinking it’s ultimately for the common good, can’t that then start tricking the senses into confusing twilight with the dawn? At least until a ray of light reminds that person of what the light is truly like.
Most of the questions I addressed to him were along these lines: if your work in the government involved tolerating a certain amount of official corruption, then what finally made you decide that a line had been reached you could no longer cross? He tried to explain by means of a parable.
He said that his work takes him to forestry areas and in one such area, he encountered a Dumagat. He pointed out to the Dumagat that the trees were heavily laden with fruit; that the fruit should be sold in the lowland towns. And the Dumagat replied, but those fruits are there to feed the birds. Lozada says he recalled that story when he encountered an official who, not content with the 3 billion Pesos in overpricing he (Lozada) was willing to let the official have, then insisted no, he (the official) should get 7 billion Pesos. That was simply unacceptable.
And again, I had to return to my question -what was the line, then? Essentially, this, Lozada said: percentages -commissions- say, up to 25%- are par for the course in government projects but beyond that, officials insisting on more have simply gone too far: their pound of flesh becomes so large as to deny the public any possible advantages or gains from the project. (This is not a direct quote, I am paraphrasing our exchanges.)
As he was expressing these thoughts I recalled something I’d heard from a defender of Romulo Neri, which was that his attitude, say concerning the North Rail Project, was that a certain amount of corruption was acceptable, so long as the public obtained something beneficial in the end: in this case, a railroad that should be built, anyway, without incurring heavy government obligations.
I must say that I am uncomfortable with his explanation: it makes sense, and on a certain level, yet betrays a kind of hubris. What he said does go to the heart of a very basic line (ultimately, a fluid one) most Filipinos instinctively draw, which is, that there are certain things that are just too crass -too garapal– that once crossed, can’t be tolerated. It is this, more than his obvious intelligence, or his being stuck in a perilous situation, that will resonate with the public. We navigate between our own personal spheres and the official one always conscious of the grey areas, always factoring in a certain amount of official malfeasance, but there always comes a time, even if we aren’t directly affected, when something is too much -too crass to tolerate.
But I do find it troubling that an official relies on a line he himself drew, on a basis that by its very nature must be vague or at least arbitrary, compared to the lines that should be drawn, beyond a shadow of a doubt, by the law. This is the kind of discretion that can result in a line so erasable and movable, that it becomes meaningless. In Lozada’s case he obviously resisted the temptation to keep moving the line, though he stopped moving it quite late -a matter of mere nights ago, possibly? It’s just as well he seems firm, now; it’s too bad he has moved the line so often that any potential benefits arising from his testimony will be that much harder to achieve. I am also under the impression that his personal line also involved whether or not he would have to make statements in public.
So long as everything was in the realm of speculation, did not involve his personally having to testify under oath, he may have thought that prudence was the better part of valor -no sense in seeking some sort of martyrdom. But confronted with a summons he could not ignore, and facing pressure to avoid those summons; and furthermore, realizing that the ultimate response on the part of the administration was not to enable him to permanently avoid those summons, he wouldn’t go as far as perjuring himself, at least not at the point at which he’d personally have to raise his right hand and swear to the veracity of what he would say, before the public.
There are two things about Lozada that will go far, I think, in understanding the distinctions he’s tried to make, and his eventual decision to hold the line once he felt things had gone too far. The first is that he is proud of being a Thomasian, he quotes Thomas Aquinas widely. The second is he is a passionate student of Jose Rizal.
Some snippets from his remarks to people during the hours I was there, to illustrate. Again, these more along the lines of paraphrasing his conversation, as I was taking notes by means of sending text messages to myself.
“Thomas Aquinas said the worst form of corruption is the corruption of the best.”
“We’re a failing state. The obligation of a state is to provide basic services…. Self restraint isn’t there. Checks and balances do not work. Instead, influence peddling moderates the checks and balances.”
“Rizal asked his brother Paciano, did God makes us poor and silent, or we were so misgoverned we ended up that way? Paciano couldn’t answer. Two years later, Rizal wrote to Paciano, and said, in my travels abroad I have the answer: we didn’t get the right kind of government from our leaders.”
“Rizal said there are three requirements for a Just Revolution. First, there must be a great cause, and all peaceful means must be tried to achieve it, and still, all fail; second, prepare for imminent victory, this is why he rejected Bonifacio’s invitation to join the revolution, they’d left too much to chance without thinking of what would happen afterwards; third, we must have an educated population otherwise the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow.And also, you must be prepared to erase every shred of the system you overthrow.”
“We must make it too expensive for someone to screw up the country. Only then will the next person will have second, third, fourth thoughts about trying to mess the country up.”
“If you want to understand my moral compass, there’s this book I read in which this question was tackled: ‘Why is it that billions have walked the earth while only a few have stood the test of time. And yet those few lived at a time when there were many who were more powerful or famous than them?’ When a group of thinkers examined these people, they identified four polarities. First, they had a Transformative Vision, for example, Christ’s concept of love. Second, they had Courage, even if it meant going against the trend. Third, they had a Firm Grasp of Reality. Fourth, they had Unbending Ethics. The four things form a kind of diamond and with all sides present, you have a formidable leader. But if any side is lacking it’s enough to doom any leader. The book is ‘The Philosophy of Greatness.'”
(A note on how one’s recollection of another’s recollection works in a pressure cooker environment: as he was recounting this, a nun in the room asked him the name of the author of the book; he couldn’t recall; eventually, I tracked down this book: “Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness, A Philosophy for Leaders, New and Revised” (Peter Koestenbaum) which has an Amazon page which boils down what he was trying to say:
Believing that leadership is a “mindset and a pattern of behaviors” that can be learned and taught, Koestenbaum presents and illustrates the meaning of his “Leadership Diamond.” This consists of “four strategies for greatness”: vision (thinking big and new), reality (having no illusions), ethics (providing service), and courage (acting with sustained initiative).
A reader’s review is even more illuminating, I think, in that it presents what Lozada probably thinks he’s tried to do, regardless of whether his peers or the facts bears it out:
Koestenbaum presents his approach in a didactic manner, yet never underestimating his audience, utlizing a model for Leadership values in the form of a four vertex diamond: Vision, at the top, encompassing the ability to think strategically, but also to understand others with different cultures and realities than our own; Courage at the bottom, which surprisingly represents not heroic, one-time achievements but rather sustained initiative, the ability to focus on an objective throughout life; Reality on the left, comprehending the ability to deal with hard facts, but also the understanding of the paradoxical nature of life; and, last but not least, Ethics, which beyond anything represents empathy and stewardship, service to others as the ultimate way of realizing greatness.
I also noticed that his recollection of the events surrounding his decision to testify in public, seem solid enough, in large part because they withstood constant re-telling).
Again: the person with little actual power but some authority, the person of superior intelligence but inferior social or political status, must either accept his condition as a servant or adorn his existence with the trappings of being a kind of philosopher-king in training; servitude is always an unpleasant existence for the person convinced he has a greater mind and a superior virtue to those he serves; it makes for what some would call a messianic complex and others a hero-in-the-making.
Personally, I believe he is motivated by patriotism, and that he subscribes to the notion that he’s reached a point he did not want to arrive at, but the challenges of which he must embrace. But part of the blame, part of the peril he faces, was the making of people like himself, who thought that he could somehow outwit those who may be dull of mind and insatiable in their appetites, but who have the means to hire brains to counter his and wield force which settles any possible debate with finality.
I do think he was treated very badly by a government that failed to recognize every man has his limit and that furthermore, which overestimated its capacity to be the master of events just as it thinks it has found the measure of every man. Because there are times when the threat of brute force, or the even more cunningly applied implications of dire consequences, stiffens instead of weakens a person’s resolve to obey a higher law.
Redemption is something every person should have an opportunity to achieve.
But let us see how he testifies under oath; and how he faces up to the cross-examination by the Senators allied with the administration.
As it is, for now, a new phrase has entered our political lexicon: Moderate their greed’ :Instruction refers to Mike Arroyo, Abalos.
What happened to JDV showed that the Arroyo family is prepared to ruthlessly discard even a top ally who may dissent from its position. It demonstrated the vulnerability of all friends and allies once they doubt or oppose the ruling family. Further, the JDV ouster can be seen as a major — if not a fatal — blow at the independence of the House of Representatives and the building of a genuine political party system.
What happened to Mr. Lozada was something else. It exposed the readiness of the Arroyo family to use the state instrumentalities — even if violative of laws and human rights — for purely political survival imperatives. Malacañang’s subsequent explanations and “evidences” to support an alleged “voluntary request” by Mr. Lozada for protection pale in the face of Lozada’s own story of forced abduction. The actual events support Lozada’s own version, such as the cloak and dagger operation, the denial by Lozada’s own family of such a request, the subsequent urgent motion for a writ of habeas corpus and writ of amparo before the Supreme Court, the contradictory stories of various government officials identified with the abduction, and the renewed Malacañang attack on the Senate investigation of the ZTE-NBN deal.
The panic, desperation, and tenseness evident in the sloppy decisions and executions in these incidents vie for supremacy with the arrogance, ruthlessness, and power-tripping evident in the mind-processes of the decision-makers.
And from Billie Princesa, niece of Lozada, an appeal for prayers.