Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rise to your full height

Imagine grown men bickering over undershirts and formal attire on nationwide TV while the nation was in the throes of war between good and evil, truth and falsehood.

While I have no reason to doubt the gist of the revelations of Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada on the ZTE-NBN multi-million-dollar deal that implicated public officials and private individuals, and his alleged forcible abduction by police and airport officials; while I do not question his motive to “save my soul” and by doing so, also “save the soul of this nation”, I have some observations to make of his behavior that tends to undermine his credibility.

I make these observations not to chip away at his credibility (why on earth should I do that and gain the ire of his fans) but so that he does not further erode it himself.

Okay, the gravity and magnitude of his accusations have made us sit up and listen and act. Hundred million plus dollars that translate into billions of pesos for “commissioners”, big names, big players, big deal. But while listening to all these since Day One of Lozada’s testimony at the Senate hearing, press conference and TV appearances in assorted venues, I could not help noticing chinks that I find annoying, disconcerting and exasperating. Things that make me wanna say out loud to him: Look, I believe you and wanna believe you. Could you please do it well and right, in a manner that befits your dignity and the gravity of your revelations?

I admit I can’t help looking at the small stuff, but that’s what the guys of TV’s blockbuster “CSI” are looking at to get at the truth—the small stuff, too, the minutiae.

At ANC’s “Harapan” that lasted for hours and pitted him against those he has accused, I don’t know why Lozada had to twit PNP Chief Avelino Razon and Asec. Formoso and others about their formal attire. Lozada was wearing just an undershirt and seemed to be calling attention to it.

Razon was not amused. I could see his jaw tighten as he explained that he had to leave his wife at a social function in order to be at “Harapan”. Not that he relished coming. Later, Formoso had his turn to snap back and say he also had an undershirt but, he stressed, he had been taught to face the public wearing the proper attire.

The debate had descended to that kind of talk with Lozada initiating it. They sounded like little boys in the school yard. Yeah, that was a brief respite from the hard stuff, but that the new national poster boy for truth initiated it was rather disconcerting. Please naman.

When you face men who had known another kind battle, men such as the retired military and police officers now serving as civilian officials in the government that Lozada faced in the Senate hearing, you must look them straight in the eye, with jaws tight, hand on the holster, ready to fire back. You cannot be limpy-wimpy with them. These men had fought battles in urban and rural jungles. Although I have not totally shaken off my martial-law era military phobia (that’s why I say no to a military junta), I have respect, grudging sometimes, for armed men who have to heed the call to battle.

I hope they also had respect for Lozada’s tears at the Senate. Surely they too had shed tears for their slain comrades in the battlefield.

We all remember bank official Clarissa Ocampo who was key in getting former Pres. Estrada convicted on plunder charges, not just with her say-so but with damning documents that supported her claim. She first strode into the Senate hearing wearing a mute bluish-grey suit and with the subtle glow of pearls. She spoke softly and carried a big stick, so to speak. She did not want to bask in public adulation and preferred to speak about what she knew only in the right forum. She held the hall in thrall. She was unassailable.

I am saying this so that would-be Lozadas would, after experiencing a heady ride on the crest of admirers, stop sounding whiny-weepy. Lozada had the sikmura to participate in those deals and even say mea culpa for his past sins, he should not cry “me against the mob” on nationwide TV, he should stop projecting himself as an underdog. He should believe he has the upper hand.

I remember the time I was summoned to Fort Bonifacio for a closed-door hair-raising interrogation by generals and colonels (I was the first among the women writers they summoned and with me was Atty. Alex Padilla who was sent by Atty. Jose W. Diokno) the first thing I said to them in crisp and clear language was: “Before I answer any of your questions, I want you to give me your names and rank.” Aba, they all did and I wrote everything down. With those names we were able to go to the Supreme Court to stop further harassment.

I was braver than I thought.

When fellow journalist Chit Estella and I were seized by a group of gun-wielding military men at night (I was driving a car full of the anti-Marcos church publication “Iron Hand, Velvet Glove” and didn’t know we were being trailed) and were about to be hauled off to Camp Crame, we stood our ground because the arrest order did not bear our name, until Sr. Christine Tan, RGS and Fr. Ralph Salazar came to rescue us. I was ready to shout our names to the crowd that had gathered.

We were braver than we thought.

Lozada said he had no time to think about shouting for help when the men came for him at the airport. Well, okay. I think Jonas Burgos shouted when he was abducted.

My advice to Lozada: 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.