HE IS the University’s “statement” amid the political turmoil engulfing the nation.

UST has come out in full support of Thomasian Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada, Jr., the corruption whistleblower whose testimony in the government’s anomalous National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with a Chinese firm is threatening to bring down the Arroyo administration.

UST broke its silence on the corruption controversy with a half-page advertisement in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last February 19, featuring Lozada’s 1984 graduation picture and saying: “Is there a more eloquent statement than a true Thomasian?” Copies were posted around the campus.

The University has held a Mass and prayer vigil as well as a noise barrage to deplore corruption in government, bringing back images of UST’s prominent stance during the Estrada impeachment crisis of late 2000 and early 2001.

Rector Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, O.P. will be the main celebrant in the Mass for Truth on March 2, 10 a.m., at the Santissimo Rosario Parish Church (UST Chapel). Organizers urged all Thomasians to wear yellow and attend the Mass.

“We are in full support of Lozada. He is the University’s statement to what is happening to the country right now,” Acting Vice-Rector Fr. Clarence Victor Marquez, O.P. said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

In a Mass and “truth vigil” last February 22 at the lobby of the Tan Yan Kee Student Center, Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P. said standing for the truth has a price.

“The truth is always dear, expensive, and valuable,” said Father Cabading, former UST secretary-general. “And something valuable also requires something from you.”

Candles that spelled out the word “truth” were lit in front of the University’s Arch of the Centuries.

At the same time, hordes of students marched toward the España gate and urged motorists to blow their horns in support of Lozada’s cause in the “Busina para sa Katotohanan.”

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A 1984 Electronics and Communications Engineering graduate and a recipient of the UST Faculty of Engineering’s Centennial Award for alumni last year, Lozada caught the country’s attention with his testimony before a Senate investigation that the aborted NBN deal with Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE Corp. was overpriced by as much as $130 million to fund kickbacks. Lozada accused resigned elections chief Benjamin Abalos, Sr. of working for the approval of the anomalous deal with no less than First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Lozada had worked informally as a consultant for his friend Romulo Neri, who was tasked to review the contract as director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority.

Prayers for Lozada

Expressing support for the star witness, a small UST contingent attended the prayer rally organized by former President Corazon Aquino at La Salle Greenhills last February 17.

Secretary General Fr. Isidro Abaño, O.P. also released Circular No. 52 last February 13 appealing to all Thomasians to offer special prayers for Lozada.

Last February 8, a day after Lozada went public with his explosive testimony, the University’s Office for Public Affairs issued an appeal to all Thomasians to pray so that the UST engineering alumnus “may have the strength to tell the truth as he testifies at the Senate about the ZTE deal.”

Father De la Rosa, O.P. said Lozada deserves the support of the Thomasian community.

“We should pray for him to be able to really tell the truth because you know sometimes, we are so filled with hope (with regard to telling) the truth but eventually after encountering a lot of difficulties or threats against (us) and (our) family, sometimes (we) change (our) statements. We have to pray for (Lozada’s) safety and for his strength and courage to speak (on) what he thinks is true.”

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Incoming UST Central Student Council (CSC) president Angelo Cachero praised Lozada, saying it takes a lot of guts for a person to go against those in power just to tell the truth.

More Thomasian support

A government-backed witness, Erwin Santos, came out last February 22 with graft allegations against Lozada, his former boss at the state-run Philippine Forest Corp., but UST’s legal experts say Lozada remains a credible witness.

Faculty of Civil Law Prof. Roberto Abad believes Lozada is telling the truth because several other witnesses have corroborated his statements.

“Secretary Romulo Neri testified to the same effect (as Lozada) that former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos acted as middleman for the project which had a big ‘commission’ for him,” Abad said.

Santos claims that Lozada himself engaged in distributing land to relatives without public bidding.

It is a Thomasian value to stand for the truth and tell everyone about it, just like what Lozada did, Abad said.

Faculty of Arts and Letters Prof. Reynaldo Lopez, who teaches Philippine Government and Constitution, agreed.

“Lozada has been cross-examined not only by one or two people, but by the entire Senate and he consistently says the same things,” Lopez said. “It is hard to come by clear and detailed testimonies like what Lozada had given.”

Student Welfare and Development Board Director Prof. Anita Garcia said: “Based on what I can see from the students (during the noise barrage), they fully support Lozada.”

Theology instructor Juan Carlo Libiran thinks Lozada is showing Thomasian values of being simple and straightforward when it comes to answering questions thrown his way.

“His wit and humor display the humility of a Thomasian,” Libiran said.

Political Science Prof. Dennis Coronacion described Lozada’s statements as a “very credible account of corruption in the highest level of government,” but said he preferred that the ZTE case be brought to the courts.

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“If the people who believe in Lozada’s statements are really determined to resolve this issue, it would be better for them to bring the (ZTE) case to the judiciary which has the sole power to put criminals to jail unlike the Senate which only conducts investigations in aid of legislation,” Coronacion said.

Medicine and Surgery junior student Pio Rafael Lim said no person in his right mind would do a Lozada.

“Lozada presented himself to the Filipino people and testified against illegal government dealings,” Lim said. “He showed bravery in his intention to ensure a better future for the country.”

Students speak

After meeting with the central students’ board, the Central Student Council released its own statement, “Probitas In Officio — A call for honesty in governance and a change in leadership.”

“GMA (President Arroyo) has repeatedly betrayed the public trust,” the statement read. “She has no right to sit as President a minute longer.”

The statement also referred to Lozada’s testimony on his supposed abduction and the overpricing of the NBN contract as candid, credible, and detailed.

Some Thomasians, though, doubt Lozada’s credibility.

Science freshmen Joanna Grace Balalitan, a resident of Mandaluyong where Abalos once served as mayor, said: “I doubt that Abalos is capable of doing (those) things.”

Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management (ITHM) sophomore Mary Joyce Hipolito said: “There is a gray area in his statements. Lozada may still be hiding some things. He may have shown the Thomasian value of honesty but he was not without a lot of mistakes.”

Another ITHM sophomore, Katrina Cruz, believes Lozada is telling the truth. “He looks so sincere and his statements (are consistent),” Cruz said. With reports from Anthony Andrew G. Divinagracia and Levine Andro H. Lao

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