Aquino: I cannot intervene in graft case vs NBN-ZTE whistleblower Lozada

May 21, 2013 10:12 pm 

MANILA, May 21 — President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said he cannot intervene in the graft charges against NBN-ZTE whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. as these are now with the Office of the Ombudsman.

"'Yung kasong hinaharap niya (Lozada) ngayon, sinampa bago pa ho tayo naupo, nasa records naman po ‘yan. Kung ang parang akalain niya hindi siya ma-harass ay ma-abswelto sa kaso, wala po sa poder ko ‘yan. ‘Pag tayo po’y nakialam doon sa ginagawa ng Ombudsman, tayo po ang magkakaroon naman ng kaso in turn, at dapat sana maunawaan niya ‘yan (The charges he now faces were filed before I became President, that was on record. If he thinks if I intervene would mean he would be acquitted in the case, that is beyond my power. If I do that, I might be charged by the Ombudsman, he should understand that)," the President said in an interview with reporters at the side lines after leading the 115th Anniversary of the Philippine Navy at Fort San Felipe, Cavite City.

President Aquino asserted he has no personal vendetta against Lozada, and instead, it was Lozada who was obviously angry with him.

Lozada earlier complained that the Aquino government does not support him despite testifying against some past administration officials implicated in the botched NBN-ZTE broadband project.

He posted bail after he was ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan over a graft case.

The complaint stemmed from Lozada's alleged grant of leasehold rights to his brother and a private company connected with his wife in 2009 when he was president and chief executive officer of the state run Philippine Forest Corp.

President Aquino detailed his involvement with the NBN-ZTE whistleblower when he was then a senator.

He said it was Lozada who requested his help and protection prior to his expose on the broadband controversy a few years ago.

Granting Lozada's request, the President recalled that two senators and a journalist were supposed to fetch Lozada at the airport upon his arrival from Hong Kong. The negotiations, however, bogged down when Lozada allegedly revealed the plans to the other camp and went with them.

The President said he also offered to help Lozada in terms of providing documents he needed to prove his innocence in court. So far, he said Lozada has not submitted the list of documents he required.

"Sabi ko sa kanya, bakit hindi mo ibigay sa amin ang listahan ng mga dokumentong kailangan mo mula doon sa tanggapan na dating pinangungunahan mo, ‘yung PhilForest, at para maibigay sa’yo kaagad. Inatasan ko si Executive Secretary (Paquito) Ochoa para aksyunan ‘yon. Sabi ni ES Ochoa hindi pa raw nila natatanggap ‘yung listahan hanggang sa kasalukuyan (I told Lozada to give us the list of documents he needed to clear himself. I directed Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa to immediately act on this but until now, ES Ochoa said he has not receive the list)," he said.

President Aquino reminded Lozada that he has not interfered with the cases involving his allies — Presidential Adviser on Environmental Concerns Neric Acosta and Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Grace Padaca, before the court.

Acosta is facing perjury charges while Padaca has a graft case before the Sandiganbayan.

"Hindi kami ang nagsampa ng kaso pero sabi niya (Lozada) kaya niyang ipagtanggol ang sarili niya, bakit hindi po niya gawin ‘yon, imbes na kung saan-saan tayo pumupunta sa usapang ito (We were not the ones who filed the case against him. He said he can defend himself, so why doesn't he do that instead of taking this issue somewhere else)," the President said. (PNA)

HBC/LGI

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