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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

SC upholds graft conviction of whistleblower Jun Lozada

The whistleblower in the ZTE corruption scandal during the Arroyo administration, Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, is heading for prison after the Supreme Court upheld his 2016 conviction in a graft case involving his brother.

In 2016, the Sandiganbayan convicted Lozada, former president and chief executive officer of the government-owned Philippine Forest Corp., of graft, for awarding leasehold rights over 6.5 hectares of public land under the agency’s “Lupang Hinirang” program in 2007 to his brother, Jose Orlando Lozada.

The Court also sustained the conviction of Jose Orlando, who was then a contractual consultant and confidential assistant to his brother.

In upholding the Sandiganbayan, the Court denied the appeal of the Lozada brothers who sought to overturn their conviction.

It said both brothers would serve sentences of six years and one month at the minimum, to 10 years and one day at the maximum.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed criminal charges against the brother on Dec. 29, 2011.

In the graft case, the Ombudsman said Jun Lozada had “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, through evident bad faith and/or manifest partiality, award the leasehold right over 6.599 hectares of public land under the Lupang Hinirang Program of the Philippine Forest Corporation, to his brother (Jose Orlando).”

This was “despite knowledge that the latter did not undergo the prescribed application process, when as President and CEO of the Philippine Forest Corporation, it was his duty to award leasehold rights and to ensure that all applicants should go through the regular application process.”

It also accused his brother Jose Orlando of accepting the award “notwithstanding knowledge of the absence of such required application process, thereby giving unwarranted benefit, preference, and advantage to accused Jose Orlando over other qualified beneficiaries of the program, to the prejudice of public interest.”

The notice and award of public land surfaced during Senate hearings into the government’s scandal-ridden $329 million national broadband network deal with ZTE Corp. of China, in which Jun Lozada was a star witness.

Lozada linked the Supreme Court decision to his testimony against the scrubbed ZTE deal.

“My enemies made good with their threats that they will make me regret… telling the truth,” Lozada Jr. said in a message to relatives and friends.

“Yes, they succeeded in sending me to prison. But they will not succeed in making me regret my decision to side with the truth and the people. I do not regret siding with the truth,” he said.

In Senate hearings between 2007 to 2008, Lozada testified that key government officials during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration tried to pocket millions of pesos in kickbacks from the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal.

The scandal and allegations resulted in the cancellation of the deal and the filing of graft cases against Arroyo, former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos, and others, who were later acquitted.

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