The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division convicted yesterday NBN-ZTE whistleblower Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada Jr. and his brother Jose Orlando Lozada for conspiring with one another in the unlawful leasing of 6.599 hectares of public land without undergoing proper process.
The court sentenced the Lozada brothers to suffer six to 10 years of imprisonment after finding them guilty of graft beyond reasonable doubt.
Jun was also disqualified from holding public office.
The case stemmed from the actions made by the Lozada brothers on December 18, 2007 in the city of Taguig, when Jun was then the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Philippine Forest Corporation with Salary Grade 30, according to the joint decision released by the Fourth Division.
Jun allegedly took advantage of his position when he conspired with his brother Jose Orlando and awarded the latter with the said lease under the Lupang Hinirang Program of the Philippine Forest Corporation, even if his brother did not undergo the prescribed application process.
As for Jose Orlando, he was wrong when he accepted the award even in the absence of the required application process.
But during the trial of the case, Jun denied awarding the leasehold right to his brother.
The two pleaded not guilty when they were arraigned on March 6, 2013.
The two claimed that Jun could not be found guilty of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, because he did not sign the Economic Productivity out of Idle Land (EPIL) Agreement and the Lupang Hinirang Certificate in favor of his brother.
While that may be true, the court said acceptance of the application, payment of fees, and the issuance of the Notice of Award, which was already accepted by the applicant accused Orlando, as well as the inclusion of the latter’s name in the List of Grantees, already shows “preferential right” over any other applicant.
Meanwhile, the graft court acquitted Jun of the charge of violation of Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019. The said law states that it is unlawful for any director to have “financing or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
Both Lozada brothers paid an additional P30,000 bail bond each yesterday to fulfill their P60,000 bail requirement.
During an interview after his promulgation, Jun said that it was unfortunate he was sentenced with a guilty verdict despite all of the “sacrifices” he made for the government.
“You can never be ready for things like this… Kahit naman si Pilato, alam naman niyang inosente si Kristo,” he said. “But because of political considerations, he washed his hands and crucified Him,” he added.
He added all he wanted to do was work and help, but he can do nothing if that is his fate. (CZARINA NICOLE O. ONG)