We all know his story by now.
Sent to Hong Kong to dodge a Senate hearing, Jun Lozada was abducted by a group of yet unidentified and armed men the moment he returned to Manila on the evening of Tuesday, February 5th. He was taken against his will, into a black van, and on a ride that spanned Taguig, Cavite and Laguna. Within the van he never felt free. The men were well-equipped and were able to track broadcasts, police scanners and even the Senate’s radio. They were able to track his text messages too and warned him that it was futile to ask for help. Not too soon, his mobile’s battery ran out and he literally fell off the map. His ordeal lasted around six hours.
What if it didn’t last as long? What if he never walked the path of truth as he eventually did? Take note that everything after this sentence is already revisionist history.
February 5. 8pm. Outskirts of Dasmarinas, Cavite.
Paralyzed by fear, he tried his phone again. The silence was killing him; it had already killed his phone. His fingers shook nervously as he flipped open the receiver and pressed the power button. No response. In his sweaty palm, the phone felt cold but his blood ran colder.
“Saan na po tayo?” He asked reflexively. He needed to warm himself and his jaw shivered first.
He bowed his head and tried to hide it between his knees. Yet he could still see them. Three armed men. The two large men in front seemed to be used to this; the one seated across him was younger but angrier somehow. Tatoos graced the skin that broke through their black sweaters. Apparently, these men seem to have seen too many wars. They have fought too many battles; none were their own.
He tried his phone again. Nothing still.
Then something clicked. And crackled. Hissed. But it wasn’t his.
The van pulled over and stopped on the shoulder. The driver reached for the dash with his right hand and picked up a phone. A conversation began and it wasn’t in a hurry to end.
He could barely hear anything through his own shivering. The phone was still dead but he felt deader. Through the muffled one-sided conversation he managed to make out some words. They sounded like places he’s been to in better times. Or hell. Somehow it didn’t matter.
Then the call ended. The driver nodded his head, and his companion on the right nodded in kind. The younger man across him grabbed his arm. “Lakad.”
So he walked. The door was open and he slid his right foot out. His left thigh followed suit, rested on the chair as he slowly eased his right leg down to the ground. It was wet. And the air smelled of grass, rain and incense. The moment almost felt holy if it weren’t so fast.
The young man held him at his left elbow, tentatively dragging him towards the two older men who have gone farther ahead into the grass that towered over them. This place reminded him of his numerous treks he had through the hills of Rizal. His job took him to strange places, just as his thoughts now take him to his wife, his children, his brother, his friends. But they weren’t really strange; just alien. They have been walking for what felt like forever, and that is a long time to be away from those you love.
And they stopped. Right in front of him stood the two men and they looked at him in the eye. Their cheeks were scarred by dried-up tears. Then it came.
His chest burned and his breathing heaved. He collapsed down to his right knee. And it came again.
This time his back felt the burn and it punctured through his chest. On his lips he could taste iron. It was warm and wet. He tried to breathe in but it only brought more wet iron to his lips. And on his fingers. On his chest.
It was funny, he thought at that moment. You never hear it until you feel it, and you never feel it until the regret, sadness and anger all wash over you at the same time. At least he no longer has to be afraid. The young man let go of his grip, as did fear.
He was finally free.
February 6. 8am.
The body is found by a local who was walking along the highway when he noticed that the grass bent lower in places it did not bend yesterday. He reports it to the police.
The corpse is identified as Jun Lozada, the man summoned by the Senate as they deepened their investigation into the NBN probe.
Inquirer.net runs the story — “Lozada found dead”
AM radio stations pick up not too long afterwards.
The government condemns the killing just as quickly.
In the primetime news, Jun Lozada’s wife, Violet, is shown to be hysterical. She demands justice for her husband, her family and her kids. In a moment of rage, she vocalizes that some people in power don’t want what he has to say.
In the evening news, some Senators go on air and question the link this killing has with their current investigation. Cayetano is quick to blame the government and calls everything the worst cover-up in history. Other Senators even go on to say that this may be our “Tarmac II”.
February 7. 3am. La Salle Greenhills
Lozada’s gives a press conference in LSGH where she and her children are hiding. Their tone is indignant and call on for justice and truth to prevail. At one point, they call on Jun’s friends who know the truth. They appeal that his sacrifice be not in vain.
Romulo Neri surfaces and holds a press conference deploring the ‘blatant assassination’ of his friend and colleague. He promises to testify against the Senate tomorrow, Friday.
For the rest of Thursday, the media run features on the NBN deal in anticipation of Neri’s bombshell.
February 8. 10am. The Senate.
Romulo Neri swears under oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
He presents damning information about the bribes and kickbacks received by Benjamin Abalos and Miguel Arroyo. He presents documents protected by executive privilege and provides the hard facts required by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.
Towards the end of the testimony, he condemns the killing of his friend and declares that he has come forward in the name of justice and truth. “No more lying. No more hiding.”
As his testimony at the Senate nears its end, civil society mobilizes quickly. Calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down build up very fast and protests begin to bulge in Makati and Ortigas.
Now. February 14.
The rest, as they say, is history. I’m sorry if I haven’t been able to write the past few days. We all know how chaotic it has become.
Our country has reached a turning point. What will the death of Jun Lozada mean? I don’t know. What will the expose of Romulo Neri mean? I don’t know. What will all those protests mean? I don’t know. Some are beginning to call it People Power once more. But how long can we stand in defiance?
This may be my last post. I don’t know when I’ll get to write again. The government has issued a warrant of arrest for all enemies of the state. It was a student who saw my name on TV when the list was flashed and apparently, they read my blog.
Whatever happens next, make sure that everything that happened over the past week has been for something. Only you can make that happen now — if you get to read this. Pretty soon I expect them to be knocking at my door. I will go quietly. I will not fight. Let them know for themselves the wrong they have done. Remember this, that whatever I have done or am about to do, I do it because of this:
I am free.
I have something very simple to say with this little exercise in revisionist history — the past few weeks have unleashed a historical momentum that will snowball as time goes by. It is time we hold government accountable — and ourselves as well. This is a theme I will expand in the future.
In the revisionist account above, the biggest variable would really be the resurfacing of Romulo Neri. I have no clear sense of how he regards his friendship with Lozada and so I have no guarantee that he would testify as easily as I put it. Nonetheless, I am sure the death of his friend will weigh extremely heavily on his conscience and it will be just a matter of time before he comes out with the truth.
But during that time he remains quiet, the government can do far more to suppress the media and downplay Lozada’s death. As I suggested towards the end of my account, I am sure they have the capability to downplay and counter a “people power” movement. In that event however, it will be a war of attrition. The administration has deep pockets, but it is my firm belief that our will as a people is even more boundless.
We just have to be awaken right, and be reminded that we are always free.