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Friday, February 15, 2008

Juan de la Cruz and Jun Lozada

Thanks to Perry Diaz and the author of this article Jose Ma. Montelibano.

From the land of the brave and the free, my thoughts invariably revert to the drama back in the Philippines. The nation building movement of Gawad Kalinga regularly needs some of its workers and volunteers like me to go to the United States where more and more Fil-Ams are joining the bandwagon of change. My assignment and tasks would usually take up my total concentration, and the constant traveling across cities and states would leave nothing much else for my energies to focus on.

But not this time. The sudden twist of fate has a confident Arroyo administration now scrambling for damage control. A little known government official has turned things upside down and what may have been plans and initiatives for extended control beyond 2010 have shifted to firefighting a dangerous flare that could burn the house down. It is awesome how the machinations even of the most powerful can sometimes appear puny before the most simple.

Many will argue that charges of corruption, several running into the hundreds of millions or in the billions of pesos, are nothing new. And the most blasé of clichés which insists the guilty are innocent until proven otherwise in a justice system heavily influenced by the accused will be the mantra of ZTE-involved VIPS in government. The greatest possibility exists that this revelation will go the way of others before it – inside drawers and filing cabinets to gather dust and contribute to wasted efforts.

Some will point to the revival of Church initiatives a la Cardinal Sin and decry the lack of respect for the separation of Church and State – a principle that both the Vatican and Malacanang agree on. I myself wonder at times why this relationship cannot find a modus vivendi closer to constitutional and theological exhortations. Perhaps, it is just a matter of history and habit, of how what is being asked to separate today was intimate for so long it cannot leave the past behind.

As usual, in a controversy, there are at least two sides. Whistleblower Jun Lozada is confronted by a phalanx of government bigwigs with their attendant technical staff or operators. Yet, he has been able to hold his own before the eyes of the Filipino public; or, if I may say it more accurately, before the eyes of the Filipino. Secretary Lito Atienza, former Secretary Mike Defensor, a highly respected PNP Chief before the Lozada expose, and a whole line of officials occupying equally important posts try to counter the impact of one Jun Lozada and come up short.

Juan de la Cruz has found a representative in Jun Lozada. Juan de la Cruz is far from perfect, and so is Jun Lozada. But Jun Lozada wants to hold on to what is left of his decency, of his tattered soul and name. Not so surprisingly, Juan de la Cruz wants to be a hero as well despite his ordinariness and many mistakes along the way. The good and the noble in each of us sometimes look for the inspiration, the role model. Well, Juan de la Cruz found Jun Lozada, and all the queen's men and all the queen's horses cannot do much to destroy the Philippine idol of the moment.

The last time I checked, Gloria had instructed two Cabinet members to take the lead in fighting corruption in government. While Secretaries Favila and Andaya definitely cannot succeed in that department, the actuation of Gloria affirms that Jun Lozada is too hot to go against openly, especially with the CBCP having expressed sympathy for him. Priests and bishops have a lot of experience with the confessional, and, perhaps, are in the best position to know when a penitent is sincere or not. Well, they believe Jun Lozada, and no separation of Church and State can take that away now.

Gloria will roll with the punch, about the wisest move she can make today. Instead of trying to personally smear the integrity of Lozada, she publicly tells some of her people to combat corruption. Of course, it does not mean that many in government are not trying to blacken Jun Lozada before the eyes of Juan de la Cruz even when their president takes a different tack. They are better advised not to go too far. The seemingly apathetic Juan de la Cruz is strangely quiet but deeply agitated – a deadly combination in search of a fuse.

In a situation where Juan de la Cruz has seen himself in Jun Lozada, resonating with both his fears and courage, any offensive against Lozada is taken as an offensive against the Filipino. When Jun Lozada had his big day last Friday in the Senate, many who listened or watched had moments when they cried together with Jun Lozada. More than being angry as in the Hello Garci case, Juan de la Cruz felt sorry for Jun Lozada and was reminded how helpless he was just like Jun Lozada.

It seems like a long time ago but a similar situation happened between Juan de la Cruz and Flor Contemplacion. A lowly domestic helper was seen as a hapless victim of government bullying even if that foreign government believed their laws were simply being implemented. Juan de la Cruz saw himself in Flor Contempalcion and a crisis erupted in the Ramos administration. I remember big heads rolled that time, too, even when Ramos was a popular president at that time.

Today, it is unbelievable how many individuals and groups are trying to find ways how to help Jun Lozada. Many are asking for prayers in a massive text brigade. Others want to contribute money for Lozada's safety and legal defense. Most want to issue statements of support. And the most militant will attempt to bring people to the streets though it is a silent majority, a sea of Juan de la Cruzes,that seeks more than street protests this time.

I have often written about a build up in the sentiments of Filipinos for meaningful change. I know that the Lozada affair has tapped on that angst. What I do not know is how deeply or intensely Juan de la Cruz is affected. My own sense is that it is deep enough to find instant and radical expression with the right trigger. After all, frustrations do pile up. The proverbial last straw can be anything, anyone. It is an auspicious Chinese New Year and promises great excitement.

What saves the day for those who are afraid of sudden change is the absence of the young in the equation. The participation of nuns and priests, if they have schools to back them up, is a vital ingredient that both sides must consider seriously. With the current mood of Juan de la Cruz, an outpouring of sympathy by students can prove to be fatal. After all, the restiveness in the military had never been resolved. The loyalty of soldiers to their commander-in- chief has been consistent, except twice in Edsa One and Edsa Dos.

Twenty-five years ago, Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. Juan de la Cruz first cried and felt sorry at himself, realizing that if a senator could be killed just like that, so could he. No wonder so many are praying for Jun Lozada –Juan de la Cruz is simply praying for himself.***

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