I never hid my dislike for Jun Lozada, based on his character and what I know of him as an operator when he was still with the DENR. This was a guy who’d arrogantly call for supposedly official meetings outside his office, in bars and restaurants, dine and drink his fill while behaving like a lout, then stick you with the bill. He has no sense of personal loyalty and has been politely described as a “man on the make” (and on the take, as he has admitted). As a whistle-blower, and civil-society “hero”, his whining self-righteousness is extremely irritating. He so obviously enjoys the limelight and his public statements during his recent “road tour” are characteristically pompous and overblown.
But I tried to separate the message from the messenger and gave him credit for speaking up, however reluctantly, on the ZTE broadband corruption scandal.
Now events have conspired to push him on a long slide to irrelevancy. First, the Supreme Court decision in Neri vs. Senate Committee has effectively stymied the Senate proceedings, his most effective platform. Worse, it has deprived the Senate of access to vital witnesses who would corroborate the allegations of Lozada and company, most notably Romulo Neri, as well as other Cabinet members and functionaries. Without a stage and most of the major players, this show can’t go on.
Then Cory Aquino, arguably the most popular opposition draw, and Lozada’s supposed patron and mentor on the path to rectitude, was stricken ill with cancer. No more Tita Cory to cuddle Jun and bring in the crowds.
Finally, there’s Lozada’s own big mouth. He could use some of the advise on self-examination and reflection he so blithely foists on others. His wiseass and bombastic manner has turned off a lot of people, even from among his initially steadfast supporters. Consider Inquirer columnist John Nery, who once lauded Lozada for his “sacrifice” and for “taking the more difficult path” and his later evaluation of Lozada, weeks before the SC ruling and the announcement of Tita Cory’s illness:
Impassioned sources paint a vivid portrait of, not so much outright corruption, although there is that too, but of eminent corruptibility. Lozada, a source I have no reason to distrust told me the other day, is a man on the make, assisted in no small part by his considerable powers of rationalization. (My source called it his “gift of gab.”) That is why Lozada found himself in the middle of a hundred-million-dollar deal, with no official portfolio except that of facilitator. And that is why he was able to ask Sen. Panfilo Lacson to consider raising “patriotic money” for his principal and close friend, Romy Neri.
As far as I can tell, Lozada’s current role as credible truth-teller (and Cory Aquino’s prayer partner) is based both on the details of his story (they have for many the ring of truth) and the circumstances of the telling: abducted from the airport, rescued by religious, overcome by great emotion, serene in the truth.
His credibility is that of a witness, not a philosopher. At one point in his first Senate appearance, he joined an ongoing discussion about corruption in government with the words, “May I share my experience?” He then proceeded to talk, not about his experience, but about his reflections on experience. His intervention, using the abstract language of reflection, was by far the least compelling part of his testimony.
Does it matter? It is his abduction from the airport by armed and unknown men which reveals the dangerous and duplicitous nature of the Arroyo administration–and allows us to evaluate the ZTE-NBN mess in the right light.
I’m afraid it does matter. Lozada is not only getting a free pass on his official indiscretions; he is pushing people away by pontificating on the issues, instead of re-telling his experience.
Consider, out of many possible examples, what he said at a “Mass for Truth” at his alma mater the other Sunday. Reacting to what he said a priest “close to the cardinals” had told him about the political conservatism of many bishops, he let loose with a confession of un-faith:
“I replied, Father, if you’re telling me now that the Church where I seek refuge is being indifferent to the truth and justice just because of your own geopolitical considerations, Father, you have to teach me to unlearn all the homilies, all the liturgical sharing, all these doctrines that you have [taught] me before, because I have to renounce my faith if that is how you will answer me.”
Obviously he got carried away. To renounce the same faith of the nuns who protect him requires an act, a leap, of rationalization.
Another Inquirer columnist, Antonio Montalvan II, thinks its now time for Lozado to reinvent himself. In his scathing, and largely accurate, assessment of Mr. Lozada:
At the rate Lozada’s truth advocacy is fizzling out, he had better start reinventing himself and fast. How? Here are some ways he might wish to seriously mull over.
To recoup his popularity, Lozada might consider becoming a product endorser, somewhat along the lines of what Manny Pacquiao has been doing. Product endorsers are never questioned for their morality. Why, they even become role models for the young. This is a media genre where second families are never brought into question.
If he is already at it, a parallel field would be television and movie stardom. He will be tailor- fit for a lachrymal role in a telenovela. .
Otherwise, he might as well consider joining politics. He can then be in the same league as everyone there who thinks a little corruption is permissible corruption. The phrase that he himself coined certainly sounds familiar. And we had all thought he would come like a breeze in a sea of grafters. At the rate he has been defending his dalliances with corruption in the Philippine Forest Corporation, he certainly sounds like a politician already. I can already hear greetings of “Welcome to the club!”
Lozada, of course, will be at home in the field of transactional politics. He had proven himself quite adept at it in those times when he went forum shopping, meeting clandestinely with Ping Lacson and Jamby Madrigal (even while he was also courting the support of MalacaÃ±ang), and then coming out into the open with the packaging of a so-called whistle-blower, as he himself narrated to us. That was indeed quite an impressive feat.
Or he may seriously consider becoming a full-time Catholic Church basher. He certainly has the talent to spout fast words against his target, as he did when he called Ricardo Cardinal Vidal as the archbishop of the “Archdiocese of MalacaÃ±ang.” Of course, he did not bother to check the truth. Like many of us, he just relied on good old perceptions for an advocacy that is bent on forging the truth.
On second thought, Catholic Church-bashing may be anachronistic for him when he is in the company of his religious nun handlers. But that can be another opportunity for Lozada. He can, for instance, consider becoming a third order member of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco or the Benedictine Sisters, who seem to be the only ones who have yet to know the truth. It must be difficult for these nuns clutching at ropes for survival in their advocacy. A moral crusade is made of sterner stuff. I thought those nuns knew that.
Lozada can always drop his guns and go back to government where many of his ilk are exactly like him–hesitant to admit their errant ways and proclaim their mea culpas. Till now, I still have yet to see Lozada’s remorse, only which can absolve him of his own misdeeds in government. Again, I can already hear the greetings: “Welcome to the club!”
Perhaps the most tempting of them all is for Lozada to contemplate becoming a Filipino hero. After all, Cory Aquino has already canonized him as the Second Ninoy. Wow! Forgive the seeming callousness at Cory at this time of her greatest tribulation. We all know the Big C is absolutely no joke. But calling Lozada the Second Ninoy was probably Cory’s greatest faux pas. Ninoy belongs to the people now, not only to the Aquino family.
Why am I doing this to Lozada? Because the need for government reform, especially if it is in the magnitude of a moral crusade, has never been more acute in our nation’s history than it is now.
And Lozada is not measuring up to it. Please take a back seat, Jun Lozada, for letting us down.
Thanks for trying. It is the substance, more than the packaging.
It is the truth, more than popularity.
Jun Lozada admonished the Filipino people for not taking action against the rampant corruption in the administration in a speech he delivered at a mass at the Most Holy Trinity Parish in Manila. He added: “In front of this altar, I am declaring that I left my once comfortable life to offer my life to the Lord.”
Conrad De Quiros gets worked up about the seeming public indifference to the fate of Lozada who “more than any religious figure in recent years, has given new life to the Biblical injunction that the truth shall set you free”.