20 February 2008

DLSU, PREX & ZTE-NBN: The Church's involvement thickens

Nuns serving as bodyguards. Two rival Catholic universities joining forces to act as champions of truth and accountability. Bishops issuing pastoral letters. Civil society groups trying to wring to the last revolutionist drop of meaning the bishops' ambivalent message of "communal action". Lay Catholic groups organizing mass actions. And now, Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) national head couple Manny and Maribel Gaite. It was Deputy Executive Sec. Manny Gaite who gave (loaned?) Jun Lozada P.5Million so he could find relative comfort in cold London/Hong Kong.

Whoever says the Philippine Church should not interfere in politics doesn't know this country well enough. For many members of the Church, involvement is not so much a matter of choice, as a matter of office, or duty, or even necessity. It is partly borne out of the reality that, other faiths notwithstanding, this is a Catholic country. The operative principle here, it seems, is "6 degrees of Catholic separation". Am I feeling triumphalistic? Hardly. Just look at the players involved in this latest scandal. Considering that most of them are Catholics doesn't really make a strong case in favor of 350+ years of Catholic presence.

Maribel Gaite explains her husband's moral uprightness and describes her family's "moment of darkness". Manny Gaite then states his case. The Gaite couple's separate statements both underscore the pain and anguish brought upon the innocents by this latest national preoccupation. Like statistics of extra-judicial killings, the steady flow of info upon info tends to numb the national consciousness from the chilling effects this scandal has caused the families of those involved.

Unfortunately, insensitive as it may appear, the question has to be asked: who is telling the truth? Gaite or Lozada? Logic dictates that between two contradictory statements, there can only be two results: one of them is right and the other false, or both of them are false. Is it possible that they are both telling the truth as they see it, and still both be guilty of collusion, in one way or another, to a/several case/s of robbing the people? Since as of the latest "Harapan", Lozada enjoys the confidence of a whooping 92% of the Kapamilya public, Gaite naturally feels unjustly judged.

To Manny Gaite, my litmus test would have to be this: Above and amidst all of it, do you still consider yourself pro-PGMA? If you are as upright as your wife claims you are (and I'm almost inclined to think so, too), then why are you still there in MalacaƱang? Why still make yourself party to the many stealing, cheating and lying being done there? And if you think I'm judging already this present dispensation, you understate my sentiments.

Ideally, Manny Gaite should enjoy presumption of innocence. But in real life, he carries the burden of guilt, which means he has to do more than just prove he had no hand in the attempts not to have Lozada attend the Senate hearings or that he acted out of humanitarian consideration. It also entails explaining the paradox - which he and his wife created - that he is an immaculate sheepdog yet totally not out-of-place in that lair of wolves called MalacaƱang.

Rightly or wrongly, so many people in government will be judged not by hard evidence but by perceived loyalty to the President. Then again, can you blame the public, they who, through the likes of Lozada, now have an inkling as to how they've been robbed and raped, repeatedly, without impunity, by those in power?

P.S. For a circumstantial-evidence-backed, but generally convincing (at least for me), opinion on Manny Gaite's involvement in the NBN-ZTE-Lozada affair click this blog.

From: edgardo feliciano <edfel415@yahoo. com>
To: groups prex <prex@yahoogroups. com>
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 4:47:26 PM
Subject: PREX THE LORD!!! letter of ate abel and statement of kuya manny

Dear Br. Bernie FSC and my Lasallian family,

I would like to respectfully furnish you and our community with a copy of the statement of my husband, Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite in the light of the repeated public allegations of Mr. Jun Lozada against him.

The words of St. Augustine "No one can claim a monopoly of the truth" are what have kept my husband and I going at this darkest hour of our family life. I fully stand by the integrity and honesty of my husband and I know he is not capable of doing anything as dishonorable as what Mr. Lozada have kept telling the senate and the media.

It is very sad that when my husband finally got a chance to face Mr. Lozada in the senate and state the facts from his side, Mr. Lozada so easily got away with his very damaging statements in the previous days. I vividly recall how in a previous senate hearing before my husband was called to testify, not to mention in many media interviews, Mr. Lozada so freely maligned the name of my husband, saying among others, that it was my husband who told him to lie, go to Hongkong to evade the senate, and allegedly used the term "delatory tactic" to orchestrate the entire cover up.

When my husband finally got his chance to be heard in the senate, at one point, Mr. Lozada corrected himself, saying he must have confused my husband with another lawyer. And Mr. Lozada so easily got away with it, just like that, and still earned himself the description of a very credible and consistent witness thereafter.

Last Saturday night, when my husband was not there in the "Harapan" to be able to promptly refute, clarify or correct Mr. Lozada's heavy allegations, Mr. Lozada again so freely accused my husband, saying that the same gave him P 500,000 pesos to keep him away from the Senate.

The next day, which was the 100th year of our town Fiesta where my husband happens to be the parish centennial celebration president, was a very trying time for us as a couple, when he had to stand up in our parish and thank all those who have supported him for the celebration. Although I know how he must have been hurting inside, I never heard him utter any word to use the opportunity to air his side in the face of such damaging accusations. It was also the same time when my own La Salle community was hailing Mr. Lozada a hero in our nation's search for truth, someone whose words cannot be questioned anymore, someone against whose words, a differing view would only be condemned.

I have silently watched and listened to how our La Salle brothers and other members of our La Salle community, many other religious and former government leaders have repeatedly affirmed the credibility of Mr. Jun Lozada to a level seemingly beyond doubt, calling others whose words do not jibe with his story as corrupt and merely covering up for the President. Even then, I prayed I would not be tempted to pass judgment against the brothers although in my hearts of hearts, my question was how could some of the brothers whom I thought knew me personally and my husband quickly judge him purely based on the allegations of Mr. Lozada?

During the MBC meeting the other week, I learned that Dean Juico stood up for my husband whom he had known since the time of Pres. Cory and asked the MBC to at least hear first what my husband had to say in the senate before asking him to resign based on Mr. Lozada's very serious allegations) . I was surprised to learn today from Dean Juico that it was only a couple of days ago when Br. Armin was able to recall that DES Gaite is my husband. It bothers me because I had thought that considering that if the allegations of Mr. Lozada are all true, the people charged would be punished; at least due diligence must have been done by persons supposedly discerning and courageously standing up for the truth. I know I'm not an authority in spirituality but many innocent people could be irreparably damaged through trial by publicity and even our own search for truth if our means are not as carefully consistent with our sincere ends. This is not to discredit anybody nor to criticize those who fully support the crusade for truth of Mr. Lozada as well as those who believed him completely but rather to contribute to our communal discernment of Truth for our country.

The thing that get me going these days, as I have said, are St. Augustine's words No one can claim the monopoly of the truth. Truth is neither yours nor mine. It is God's. We all hold in our fragile hands a piece of Truth and I believe the call is for us to put those pieces together, humbly and with a readiness to hear other sides, even a contrary view, believing the best and not the worst in each other in order to build our country from where we are, however broken or in need of healing.

This will be my first time to say publicly that my husband has served four presidents as an honorable man. And in all those times, not one president I recall, can claim perfection nor freedom from any allegations. What if by any chance, not all that Mr. Lozada are saying are true? Can we still bring back the good names of people and their families should they be later proven innocent in the court of law, or completely erase the clouds of doubt that have been sown in the minds of people against them?

All I ask is for you to give my husband and all others concerned the benefit of the doubt and the human right of presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. Loving my husband as much as I do, I would not in any way attempt to obstruct justice, if he has truly done anything unlawful or dishonorable.

Since I am currently serving in your august school as Director of our Center for Social Responsibility and Human Development, which I consider the closest to a Center for Ethics that we have at the moment, I would understand it should you honestly feel I no longer have the credibility necessary for the good name of the Center.

I have humbly attached for your kind attention the statement of my husband. In a way it's our joint statement since a part of what was recounted there happened when I was there. While I informed him that I would send you a copy of his statement, I did not tell him anymore of this emotional transmittal letter from me, which I will also copy furnish him.

I only wish good things for Mr. Lozada and the rest of us.

Yours sincerely,


------------ --------- --------- --------- ---


It’s unfortunate that all my efforts at helping Jun Lozada have been twisted by him or made to appear as part of a scheme to prevent him from testifying in the Senate hearing on the NBN/ZTE project.

I would like to emphasize that from the start, I did not seek Jun Lozada to provide him with legal advice. It was he, through CHED Chair Romy Neri, who sought my legal assistance.

The information about his travel to London (not Hongkong) came from him, after I explained to him that one of the valid reasons not to appear at the scheduled Senate hearing on 30 January 2008 was a previous schedule that one can no longer cancel. The decision to go ahead with the trip was his, not mine. As I have said in the Senate hearing last 11 February 2008 , I did not arrange his travel documents much less purchased his ticket nor funded his foreign trip.

With regard to the P500,000 that I extended to him through his brother Owe Lozada on 4 February, the same was made upon Jun’s instance, after he had texted me that it was so cold where he was (which I assumed was in London), with not even a proper winter clothing and running out of funds. He also said in his text “hindi ko na po kaya ang ganitong buhay”, which I assumed referred to the threats to his life he had been so afraid of before he left. I believed him, I pitied him. That text came at about 2 A.M. of 3 February 2008 . When my wife saw the text and asked me about it, she also felt pity for him and asked if there is any way I could help him.

The money that I handed over to his brother on February 4, was something that I considered he has to account for when he comes back from London that is why I asked his brother to sign an acknowledgement receipt (copy attached), a fact that he sometimes omits in his public statements. I was surprised when I learned that he was coming home already the day after I gave the money. Did he really need the money or was he just baiting me? It is not true, as claimed by Lozada, that the money I gave to him through his brother, was meant to prevent him from appearing in the Senate hearing nor make him tell a lie if he appears in the hearing.

I wish to state that no government fund was used in the money that I gave to Mr. Lozada.

With the way Jun Lozada has twisted my response to his personal appeal, deceived me about his dire circumstances, publicly and repeatedly dragged my name into a controversy I have no personal knowledge about, I regret that my act of compassion for him was taken advantage of, and was used to suit his story.

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