Razon: Bigger story behind Lozada story

MANILA, Philippines–Something big was brewing when the then potential whistle-blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada was seized from the airport and taken on a long ride by state agents in February, according to the country’s top policeman.

But when asked if an attempt to unseat President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was under way at that time, Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon merely smiled and shrugged.

“There are things about it that I cannot yet reveal,” Razon told Inquirer editors and reporters over dinner at the newspaper’s main office last week.

Razon dropped the hint of a bigger story behind the big story in exasperation at being grilled over his supposed role as the “sacrificial lamb” in the Lozada “abduction,” which was widely believed to be a bungled government operation.

The controversy over the $329-million, scandal-ridden National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp. was then in top boil.

On Feb. 5, Lozada, the consultant of former National Economic and Development Authority chief Romulo Neri in the NBN-ZTE project, flew in from Hong Kong where he had been advised to hole up to evade testifying at the Senate inquiry into the deal.

It was his wife’s tearful plea over radio that he be produced by whoever had taken him that alerted the media.

Lozada later told a press conference that he was seized from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by government officials and personnel unknown to him, put in a car with “military-looking” men, and taken for a long drive south of Metro Manila before being reunited with his family at La Salle Green Hills.

He eventually testified at the Senate that the since scrapped NBN-ZTE deal was overpriced to include fat kickbacks.

‘True’ to his oath

According to Razon, however, the police “saved” Lozada’s life when he arrived from Hong Kong.

“We just did our job and we were accused of kidnapping and attempted murder,” the PNP chief said, adding:

“The abduction–that’s wrong. People were made to believe that he was abducted.”

Asked whether he was concerned that many people’s high regard for him as a principled officer was eroded when he desperately tried to rationalize the airport incident, he said: “I am not aware of comments like that. I am not alarmed. I’ve been true to my oath of office.”

Razon said Lozada and his sister, Carmen, had sought police protection although the PNP did not know exactly who Lozada was afraid of. He reiterated that Lozada did not say who was threatening him.

“The police saved Lozada’s life. We protected him from those who posed a threat to his life,” the PNP chief said.

He added that because it was a security operation to protect a person’s life, its “blow by blow” details would naturally not be disclosed.

Credibility war

Razon admitted that the PNP was facing an “image problem.” But he pointed out that the public was apparently choosing to see only the scalawags that make up a small percent of the entire police force.

He said the October 2007 explosion at the Glorietta shopping mall in Makati City saw the PNP in a “credibility war” against Ayala Corp., one of the Philippines’ biggest.

“Despite the police image problem, the saving grace of the PNP was that our findings held [their] own. Our findings were based on evidence,” Razon said.

According to the PNP, the explosion was caused by an accumulation of gases in the basement of the mall–a conclusion disputed by the mall owners.

Lozada and his family remain under the protection of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.

Speaking Friday at the “No Holds Barred” media forum at the National Press Club, Lozada said the government had been taking measures to discredit him and derail his avowed crusade for truth. (PDI)

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