Continue search for truth, anti-graft advocate says

By Mark S. Ventura

DAVAO CITY, April 8, 2008—While fears crop up that the future of the Senate investigation into the allegedly overpriced $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) contract may weaken for lack of witness, a Jesuit anti-graft and corrupt practices advocate urged the senators and the people to remain unwavering in their thrust to search for the truth.

Fr. Albert Alejo, coordinator of Ehem, an anti graft and corrupt practices advocacy program, said that all must be persistent in seeking for the truth behind the scandal.

“What we now see as an apparent dead-end may yet turn out to be the threshold of a new creation. In the seemingly desperate situation our country is in today, let the mighty wind of God’s spirit move us,” said Alejo.

“Let there be movement! And there shall be change! But first, give us no less than the truth, and the faith to face it now,” he added.

Alejo appealed to whoever has the key to the solution to this problem to speak for the people want to know the truth. Based on ZTE’s reluctant star witness Jun Lozada’s testimony the $329 million controversial deal has a built-in $130 million kickback.

“Whistleblower Lozada, of course, is not a saint. He himself confesses his previous wrongdoing. But his bold witnessing overcomes the tricks some authorities employ to avoid saying what they know and to prevent those who know from speaking out. The greatest casualty here is the truth. So tell us the truth, now!,” he urged.

For if all this is true, Alejo said, then it will confirm the grand scale corruption that the Philippine bishops have relentlessly been preaching against.

According to the Editorial of the official publication of the Philippine Bishops, “Graft and corruption in the government are so endemic and extensive that socio-political integrity in governance has seemingly become a moral impossibility to achieve during the remaining three-year tenure of the present national leadership” (CBCP Monitor June 25-July 8, 2007, p. A4). “This is a heavy statement,” said Alejo.

Alejo also added that it would be hypocritical, however, if we blame only the government.

At the moment, he said, no social institution in Philippine society seems to be immune to corruption.

“So, like Lozada, the media must also say “Mea culpa” for some distorted reporting. Like Lozada, the Church must also admit its lack of transparency in its institutions, and should also say “Mea culpa”. Like Lozada, the private sector must stop bribery and not yield to extortion, and say, “Mea culpa”, said Alejo.

The Blessing of Integrity

“We bless the dynamic leaders who literally walk the streets in delivering basic services to their people. We affirm the achievements of conscientious individuals in the corporate world and the religious groups who combine professional competence with social conscience. All this must also be hailed for they are true,” said Alejo.

“We celebrate, with both sacred rage and serene faith, the death of our contemporary martyrs who have sacrificed life, job, and family for the sake of justice. They lived in the joy and consolation of the truth,” he added.

At the same time, this Jesuit priest challenges those who hold positions of public trust to check and recheck their values. “We call on their relatives to interrogate the acts of their fathers or mothers or sons or daughters in positions of power. Do not be the cause of their downfall,” he said.
He also reminded the students especially Ateneans that they are the best contribution of schools to society. “Remember the values that your school stands for. Do not bring shame to your Alma Mater,” said Alejo.

“We call on the religious communities and members of civil society. Support the authentic whistleblowers. Give them shelter. Help them discern. Take care of their families. More importantly, do not leave individual whistleblowers to carry the burden of shaking the conscience of society. Let us transform our groups into prophetic communities and communal whistleblowers,” he said

Alejo also called on everyone to tell their stories of pain and anger, their dreams and energies. “In homes and classrooms, talk about Filipinos who tell the truth. Tell children not to cheat their way to success. Teach them hard and honest work. Tell them to respect the real value of words and numbers. Remind them of the dignity of our people,” he said.

“We believe that the present crisis is not in our genes. Even our seemingly immovable social structure and incorrigible culture of corruption cannot be our eternal destiny. If we dare to change, things will change. So let us change, he said.

Despite the seeming dying down of the ZTE issue, the Ateneo de Davao University students, faculty, administration, staff, and other concerned citizens here in Davao City are still in “communal action,” to pray hard and work even harder for enlightenment, cleansing, and the courage to live by the “truth that sets free.

“We commit ourselves to continuous struggle, within our own selves, our families and institutions, to abhor lies and to uphold truth,” concluded Alejo.