February 18, 2008

Jun LozadaSHE’S evil.

According to engineer Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., this was how Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri described President Macapagal-Arroyo during a dinner meeting last December 7 with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal.

Lozada, who was also present during that meeting, was visibly upset and hesitant when Lacson pressed him to divulge a certain part of the meeting wherein Neri allegedly called some people “names” to express his disgust at the extent of corruption in government.

But Lacson pointed out to Lozada, a major witness in the Senate probe into the alleged overpriced $329-million national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., that the December 7 dinner meeting already came out in the media and Neri himself had confirmed it had happened.

“I want the exact conversation. Maanghang man, matamis man, mabaho man. Kailangang sabihin mo. We have been hearing innuendos here. Let’s go to the nitty gritty. What are the facts. You tell us the whole story,” Sen.Juan Ponce Enrile told Lozada.

Distraught, Lozada said: “Hinihingi ko lang po in public yung pagpapatawad ng kaibigan ko si Romy. Rom, patawad, di ko kagustuhan ito. He (Neri) called po si Presidente GMA, ahh, ‘she’s evil.’ Evil daw po.”

After saying that, he asked for a short break to compose himself. When the hearing resumed, he appealed to the senators to see to it that Neri, whom he described as a close friend, will “be safe” from any threat or harm.

“I would like the Senate and people to make sure that the life of my friend will never be put in danger,” Lozada said.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan asked Lozada why Neri had described Mrs. Arroyo as “evil.” “We want to know the context of such statement,” he told Lozada.

“Kasi Neri wanted to resign sana. Iyung dine-describe niya yung web ng corruption she’s (Mrs.Arroyo) in the middle of,” Lozada said.

Pangilinan again asked why Neri considered resigning. “He’s been agonizing over it because the President lost moral authority over him,” Lozada said.

He said the dinner meeting took place at a bistro on the fifth floor of the Asian Institute of Management. He said that at the time,  Neri was already apprehensive that if he testified in the Senate concerning what he knew about the NBN-ZTE scandal, it might cost him his job.

“He was trying to ask me to raise patriotic money, yung pwedeng tumulong sa kanya para mamuhay ulit after his stint sa gobyerno kung magsasalita siya ng alam niya tungkol sa transaction. He was concerned na that sasabihin niya ay ikaaalis sa gobyerno,” Lozada said.

Lozada said that Neri presented his view of how corruption was happening in the government. But Lozada hesitated again when asked whether Neri had mentioned some people allegedly involved in corruption. “Ang dami ng galit sa akin,” he told the senators.

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