PNP ‘hides’ Lozada escort
Family fears for ex-sarge’s life
by Jay Chua
The PNP Aviation Security Group has placed SP04 Rodolfo Valeroso, a retired Army master sergeant who escorted ZTE star witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. upon his arrival from Hong Kong last Feb. 5, in a “safehouse” for his safety.
Chief Supt. Atilano Morada, head of the PNP Aviation Security Group, however, said Valeroso is “not in hiding” and will “surface in due time.”
Morada said Valeroso’s family expressed fears for his life after he was tagged as the alleged abductor of Lozada.
“Lulutang din siya sa tamang panahon, matapos niyang magpahinga,” Morada said.
Morada said Valeroso joined the ASG last December as an “action agent” but did not specify his duties.
Morada refused to elaborate on the term “action agent,” saying it is for Valeroso’s own safety.
He also refused to give details about Valeroso’s age and other personal information.
Morada said they are conducting an investigation on whether the charges of abduction against Valeroso are warranted.
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Angel Atutubo, airport assistant manager for security and emergency services, has said Valeroso told him he was tasked to secure Lozada.
Lozada testified before the Senate’s NBN-ZTE probe that Valeroso took his passport and hand-carried luggage.
Last Feb. 5, Valeroso, Atutubo and NAIA Terminal 1 manager Octavio Lina led Lozada to the departure zone to evade reporters at the arrival area.
From the third floor of the building, the group led Lozada to an elevator, which is closed to the public and used only by employees with their own keys.
The elevator went down to the tarmac, where a waiting vehicle took Lozada and sped him across the runway to the Villamor Air Base exit.
Col. Bartolome Bacarro, Armed Forces public information office chief, said: “If he (Valeroso) is already retired, then of course the Armed Forces of the Philippines has no hand in it and has no control over this person.”
Administration Sen. Joker Arroyo said Lozada appeared credible when he testified last Friday and Monday about his abduction.
Arroyo, former chair of the Blue Ribbon committee, said there are portions of Lozada’s statements that appear to be credible but majority of them lacked documentary evidence.
“In oral testimony, you look at the demeanor. From his demeanor, he seems to be a credible witness. But if you really want to get at the truth, you look at the transcripts of his testimony,” he said.
“It (Lozada testimony) was a case of his word versus those of the government,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo compared Lozada’s demeanor to that of Clarissa Ocampo, the Equitable bank executive who was the main prosecution witness in the 2000 impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada.
“When the time comes for the committee to write its report, this would be one instance where there would be so many separate dissenting and concurring opinions,” Arroyo said.
Senate President Manuel Villar said: “I am one of those who believe that Lozada was kidnapped because he had no control over the situation. He asked to be brought to Pasig but he was not allowed. These are things that happened on the night of his arrival.”
Sen. Mar Roxas said there were inconsistencies in the testimonies of airport and police officials as well as Palace officials in casting doubt on the government’s explanation on Lozada’s flight and details upon his return to the country last week.
“He (Lozada) didn’t want to defend an anomalous transaction, he didn’t want to have to say the things that he would have to say, because he would not lie,” Roxas said.
Retracing the route
Blue Ribbon chair Alan Peter Cayetano said his panel and the committees on national defense and security and on trade and commerce have scheduled an ocular inspection at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Cayetano said he would ask airport officials to retrace the route where Lozada was “whisked away” from the tube up to outside the airport.
A second hearing on the alleged abduction is set on Monday.
Cayetano said they expect to wrap up the investigation on the abduction and proceed to the “overpricing” of the NBN -ZTE project.
Stop ZTE probe
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago called for a stop to the NBN-ZTE probe to allow the Ombudsman to take over the case.
“The Ombudsman has announced it has already created a panel to investigate this crime, if there is any; who are involved, who should be prosecuted,” she said.
“There is no more reason why the Senate should continue with its inquiry since it would also have to turn over to the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice the results of its probe,” she added.
“Ang problema natin, marami sa mga senador ang interesadong tumakbo sa 2010, kaya gusto nang sarili nilang sound byte or video byte,” she said.
Cayetano said the creation of the task force by the Ombudsman to investigate NBN-ZTE deal “is too late.”
He said he is too young to aspire for a higher position to “grandstand.” – With Victor Reyes, JP Lopez and Gerard Naval and Jocelyn Montemayor