Press Release
February 8, 2013

Cayetano on (1) senatorial surveys; (2) Jun Lozada case;
(3) enacting an FOI policy through an EO

"Don't simply look at the surveys. Look at the candidates, what they stand for and what they can do for the country"

ASC: We cannot stop surveys because that's part of freedom of expression and for the candidates to be able to strategize about what to do, where to go and what issues to talk about.

Of course, I'm very happy that through God's grace so far I have landed in the top three. Having said that, I've been in the bottom four before. I've faced a lot of challenges like having a namesake and I know how hard it is to have a campaign. My message to our kababayans is don't look at the surveys. Look at the candidate and see what he stands for and what he will do for you.

Having said that, in the US what they did was track all the surveys and divided it and came out with an average. This is just to be more fair to everyone and to have a better reading. We look at a couple of credible surveys like the Laylo Report, the IBON survey and a number of other surveys. Let's look at all of them and use them as a guide to what's happening rather than who to vote for.

REPORTER: Yung kay Jun Lozada, pwede pa ba siyang maging witness kahit may warrant na for his arrest?

ASC: The Ombudsman can always withdraw the case. They can always give him immunity or use him as a state witness simply by reviewing the case filed against him. I don't know whether he's guilty or innocent. But I believe in him. I believe that many of those who were taken in as star witnesses may have committed crimes in the past but were given immunity.

That's precisely because they were insiders. Remember, Jun Lozada was an insider. He was the right hand man of Secretary Romulo Neri who spilled the beans that he was being offered P200 million to approve the project.

Clearly, Jun Lozada is not only instrumental, not only a whistleblower but was vital in exposing a government that was ripe with corruption. Now, why aren't we running after the other and instead focusing on him?

You can give immunity for past crimes.

REPORTER: Why cant government go after the bigger fishes?

ASC: Well, the people who are engaged in graft and corruption are smart. For example, if I expose illegal gambling or drugs, they will not file a case against me regarding drugs or jueteng. They will find something else that will seem totally unrelated to destroy my credibility or to shut me out. So this is a classic lean on him strategy. It's a classic, "you hit us, we'll hit you back."

We shouldn't be fooled by the tactics of the past administration to run after Jun Lozada because he was a witness. Before he exposed the NBN-ZTE scandal, two cases were filed against him for that position.

REPORTER: What can the ombudsman do?

ASC: The prosecutors and the Ombudsman have their own guidelines and authority. So the decision on whether or not to file a case is always on the prosecutors' shoulders. Now, if there's grave abuse of discretion, the Supreme Court can reverse the filing of the case.

But the point is you know that he's a whistleblower, you know that he's instrumental, you know that the guy who filed the case is being used by the past administration then why go through with the case?

REPORTER: What is the effect on other whistleblowers? On country in general?

ASC: If you were someone like Jun Lozada, you will have lost so many years of your life, your children will be scared, you will have lost your livelihood and you won't have privacy anymore. If you knew about a corruption case in government, would you be like Jun Lozada and risk everything?

We know what happens when there's graft and corruption. We lose economic growth. We lose jobs. Prices go up and people's incomes go down.

So that's what I said that this is a sad day for this administration. Because it's a day for those persecuting whistleblowers and we are sending a message to these whistleblowers that we'll go after you instead of the people you're exposing.

REPORTER: Pwede bang i-withdraw ng Ombudsman ang case against Jun Lozada in the future?

ASC: Yes. It will need the permission of the Sandiganbayan. Once the Sandiganbayan files the case, you can still withdraw it. But my point is that it's not only legal. This guy who filed the case is still holding a position in government. Was he asked to explain why he filed the case and who instructed him to file the case?

What if Jun Lozada says, "Okay I will face this. You arrest me, I will face the case. But I will shut up about the NBN-ZTE scandal."?

REPORTER: Kasi yung nagfile, separate entity...

ASC: That's correct. In the sense that there's an independence between the Senate, the COA and the Ombudsman, that's correct. But in the sense that all these constitutional bodies are aligned with the tuwid na daan and its one objective of going after the grafters and the corrupt and protect the whisteblowers, the Ombudsman must also toe the line.

REPORTER: The Ombudsman by itself?

ASC: As an intstitution, yes. You are correct that they should not be subject to the whims of the executive. But that's also the question: "Why did the administration wait three years before there was even talk of immunity for Jun Lozada?"

REPORTER: The executive could have...?

ASC: The executive could have given him some sort of immunity or help him with the case at least. I don't even think that he is being given legal assistance now.

The problem is if you let this happen, you will have fewer witnesses.

REPORTER: Is there a violation to the rights of Jun Lozada?

ASC: What I'm saying is that it's a government policy. Remember when the former Ombudsman refused to file cases against the former administration? An Ombudsman who was ironically named Merci. She was too merciful to the former administration. This government threatened the Ombudsman with an impeachment case. There were always talks about the balance of independence versus the balance of interdependency and check and balance.

So I agree that no one should threaten the Ombudsman. I agree that there should not be bathroom talks. But don't tell me that a government cluster, including the DOJ cannot figure out legally how to help their key witness.

Can you imagine during GMA's time if Chavit Singson was prosecuted by the Arroyo government? I cannot see the logic of a government encouraging witnesses to go against the former administration and to expose anomalies then say, "Bahala ka na kapag kinasuhan ka."

Now, legally, how they will do it, they should respect the Ombudsman, the Constitution, follow the laws. But we know that is more complicated than that. However, we know that it starts with your policy.

So what is the policy of the government now? Are we telling the other whistleblowers that we'll protect them as long as the Ombudsman doesn't file cases against you? Can the Sol-Gen who is under the President file a case with the Supreme Court and say that the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan are wrong? They can do that. They can respect the boundaries and independence of the Ombudsman without abandoning their policy of good governance is good economics.

REPORTER: Di ba mas maganda na harapin nalang ni Jun Lozada yung kaso?

ASC: Yes but it is easy for us to say just face the case. But when you're facing a criminal prosecution, there's a different toll on you. A week ago, a key witness in another case committed suicide or was killed in jail. We don't know for sure yet.

But can you imagine Jun Lozada facing this case and these circumstance and he has young children? Can you imagine him being in jail and wondering everyday if he will be made to appear to have committed suicide and what will happen to his family?

This person went through so much already for the past two years. Again, why am I taking it up? Not only because of my involvement in investigating this issue but because good governance equals good economics. So this means, jobs, lowered prices, the President has been saying that they were results of good governance.

Now if we're going to dissuade whistleblowers due to these disincentives, the corrupt officials will take their revenge. You will see an avalanche of cases against whistleblowers.

REPORTER: What's the process in creating an EO as an FOI policy given that Palace did not certify it as urgent?

ASC: The President himself came up with the Malacanang version of the FOI. I believe that they came up with it in good faith. Again, I will repeat what they've been saying: good governance is good economics. They said its working. Good governance should be institutional. We need a law or directive or a regulation or an executive order that directs all government agencies to be transparent and fair in handling documents, money, privileges, etc.

This can be done. An executive order telling them to put these documents on the website will suffice with corresponding administrative penalties should they fail to do so. In fact, the executive order should be more welcome to the President than the law. Because the law will be subject to the modifications of the House and the Senate. But the executive order can be fully drafted by the President himself.

If there are any concerns like national security, operation of peace and order or fighting insurgency, they can put that in the EO. In fact, the EO is more under his control, he should welcome it. In fact, the DBM is already doing that. They're already exercising the FOI in their website. It's just a matter of getting other agencies to follow.

REPORTER: So Palace can dictate FOI EO's limitations?

ASC: It's a start. I agree with you that the EO could limit what they can reveal. But there are some revolutions or changes that when you start so much momentum that you can't stop it. What I'd like to see is this government propelling the momentum of good governance leading to good economics. I'd like to see that momentum snowball. I'd like to see more institutional changes.

Good governance cannot depend on one man - the President. It should depend on institutions, proper laws and policies, on the citizens and even the netizens demanding this good governance.

An executive order will simply state the policy and what documents should be on the websites and how people can get a hold of these. The important part is administrative sanctions to those who will not give these documents.

It can also contain the exceptions and a remedy, whether judicial or administrative, for those who will not release said documents. The Senate will also benefit from this.

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