Lozada: ‘Defensor asked me to tell Senate NBN deal legit’

MANILA, Philippines — Because President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was hurting from the controversy surrounding the $329-million national broadband network (NBN) contract, her former chief of staff, Michael Defensor, asked Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. to tell the Senate the deal was aboveboard.

This was the testimony given by Lozada at the hearing on Tuesday of the petition for a writ of amparo filed by his brother, Arturo, before the Court of Appeals.

The petition was filed soon after Lozada, the key witness in the Senate investigation into the alleged bribery and overpricing surrounding the now-scrapped NBN deal, was allegedly abducted by government security agents soon after he arrived in the country from abroad in February.

Lozada told the justices of the appellate court’s 17th division that Defensor contacted him to say he was the only one who could put a stop to the controversy over the NBN deal and that “Madam [Arroyo] is hurting.”

He said Defensor asked him to tell the Senate investigation that the contract was aboveboard.

Lozada claimed that lawyer Antonio Bautista, counsel of Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri, coached him about what he was supposed to tell the Senate.

“Pero hindi ko po kayang magsinungaling [But I could not bring myself to lie],” Lozada said.

Lozada, in his testimony before the Senate, backed up the claims made earlier in the probe by original whistleblower Jose de Venecia III, who linked First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. to alleged kickbacks from the NBN deal.

The next hearing of the Lozada amparo petition will be on May 20, when the witness will be cross examined by the solicitor general.


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