Thursday, February 28, 2008

Letter from Jun Lozada

Dear Ma. Ceres,

This is my first time to write to a journalist and the only reason I am doing so is to express my appreciation for your advice that I should rise to my full height and to be braver than I think I am.

Until now I am still wondering why I am here in this situation, I have always thought that I am not fit to even be the spark to begin a light, but for some strange reason I am here. I am doing my best to play the part by sticking to the truth that I know and speaking with malice to no one.

I am not one to go into the rhetoric of false humility nor am I one who basked in the falsehood of egoistic rapture. I am simply out to tell the truth that I know, harassment and threats and failed attempts to my life notwithstanding.

I was not prepared to carry this cross, I was arguing and pleading that I don't be the one to carry it. I guess one of my friends put it succinctly for me, that it’s God who chooses our cross lest we choose the gold ones or the light ones. I am now carrying this heavy burden of living up to people's expectation, fending off the harassments and threats, facing off my legal battles in the courts, tending to the needs of my young family, assuring my wife that we still have a life to live even during these extra-ordinary times and even after the glare of media and the public has waned. All of these are heavy loads especially now that I am out of my home and living out of donations from well meaning Filipinos.

But rest assured, I will rise to my full height with the grace of God and the love of the people, just give me a little time!

Sincerely yours,

Jun Lozada

P.S. you have my permission to use this letter as you see fit.

Late last week I received the above emailed letter which was a reaction to my column (Human Face, “Rise to your full height” Feb. 21, 2008) where I took note of some actuations and utterances of Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada while testifying at the Senate and speaking to the media that I found discomfiting and not befitting his dignity and the gravity of his revelations. And so my two-cents worth for him to “rise to your full height, look them in the eye, your hand on the holster, ready to fire back. If you have to go down, go down with guns blazing. Stick to what you know first-hand. You must be braver than you think. The nuns should now get some sleep.”

I have checked to be sure that this letter was indeed sent by Lozada.


While I recognize the intensity of the rage against individuals in high places and the need to amplify it during the run-up to the People Power 22nd Anniversary last week, I see the rage to be so focused on particular individuals while the rot in institutions and structures have been relegated to the background. And so it is refreshing to hear from Bishop Socrates Villegas of the Diocese of Balanga, the Rector of the EDSA Shrine from 1989 to 2004. In his pastoral letter “EDSA Now!” he says:

“The President must change or be changed; so with the senators and congressmen. But it is not enough to change the officials we elected in Malacanang and Congress. We must also seek reform in the commission that handles the elections…We must not demand repentance and reform from our leaders if we are not even willing to repent of our personal sins as dishonest and uncaring ordinary citizens.

“Let us all resign from corruption, from indifference, from lies, from arrogant use of power. Corruption is not just a crime of the government. It has become our national livelihood. It is not only those on top who are guilty. We who are below are all guilty as well!”

The problem with us who are below is that we run the risk of losing life and limb when we so much as point to the rot, say, in the barangay level, or complain about petty (?) misappropriations, commissions and collections in the so-called “permissible zone”.

What is an idealistic pres-school educator to do when barangay officials ask her to cough up a five-digit figure (no receipts) before she could operate? What is a doctor, a homeopathist, to do when the medicines he ordered from abroad for special patients are being held by customs personnel until he gets “generous”?

Almost all the journalists (not far from a hundred now) who have been killed in the past two decades are local journalists who exposed the rot at the local level. These were not journalists exposing big shady deals like the ZTE-NBN that has the whole nation watching for months now. Some of these journalists got shot in their own front yard while their kids watched in horror. They did not have the protective shield of a hundred nuns like Lozada has. I sob.

What are citizens to do?

India’s Aruna Roy, 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Community Leadership empowered Indian villagers to claim what is rightfully theirs by exercising the people’s right to information. Highly educated, Roy gave up the life of the privileged and lived among the masses. She created a movement.

In 2005, the Right of Information Act was passed in India and this gave citizens the right to demand access to information—from budgets to records to contracts. These were there for the asking. For Roy this was India’s second war of independence, “not against the British but against our own rulers.”

It is not enough that citizens cast their vote and wait. They have to be empowered and organized to ask. They have to be a force. All that energy and rage on the streets should translate into painstaking examination of government records and contracts, like what Roy and the movement did. Read about her in “Great Men and Women of Asia” (Vol. 4 will be out soon), published by Anvil, available in National Bookstores and Powerbooks.