Almost a month after returning from Hong Kong, Engr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada faced an eager crowd of health workers last week in a forum titled “Break the Silence,Act Now!,” sponsored by the All-UP Workers’ Union together with the White Ribbon Movement (WRM).
The gathering was a break from the usual crowd of students attending his earlier campus tours. This leg of his so-called “Truth and Freedom Tour” was the first talk outside of schools since he first surfaced and testified before the Senate about the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) deal between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE Corp.
In the said forum, held March 5 at the Nurses Home of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), hundreds of health workers, including doctors, nurses and hospital workers from PGH attended, joined by students from the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila community and other nearby schools.
A relaxed Lozada bravely answered all the questions hurled at him; it turned out to be a very compelling discussion.
Seemingly evasive at some points, Mr. Lozada veered away from questions and comments hinting on whether he might openly support people power or the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, saying instead that he is sticking to the piece of truth that he knows.
However there were persistent questions raised by the audience about his views on the possibility of yet again another people power uprising and a post-Arroyo scenario just in case a popular uprising happens anyway.
Turning the discussion lively was a comment made by a community health worker, coaxing Lozada and challenging him not to hesitate about actively calling for people power. The health worker from KilosBayan para sa Kalusugan (KBK or People’s Action for Health) also urged Lozada to finally pin Arroyo down as directly accountable for the whole broadband fiasco and call for her ouster from office.
Lozada, in return, quipped that he could be of better use if he remains a “bearer of truth” instead of being identified as “a lackey of the political opposition.” He continues to urge the public to do their part in the cause he has started.
Another health professional queried about Lozada’s readiness to produce material evidences in case he faces court trial eventually.
Among health professionals, a newly formed formation called Health Alliance for Truth and Justice is set to join more mobilizations to call for truth, justice and accountability. Meanwhile the WRM stated it is calling on Mrs. Arroyo to resign.
In a statement, HATJ convener, Dr. Darby Santiago said that “corruption kills while curtailing the people’s right to health.”
The group decried how corruption is directly linked with the crisis in public health. They said that the P6.5-billion ($130 million) kickback demanded by former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos is already five times the current PGH budget.
Santiago said that because of massive corruption, people die deaths that could be prevented were it not for the sore lack of supplies and equipment in government hospitals.
Funds that are supposed to deliver health and other social services are pilfered to buy political support and sustain loyalty to Mrs. Arroyo’s rule. Of late, she has again revived funds for military housing in the hope of neutralizing them or securing their loyalty.
Communicable diseases that are preventable and mostly poverty-related, like tuberculosis, dengue fever, and pneumonia, continue to rise and are not effectively curbed because funds are usually diverted to other purposes.
”The death bed of our country’s public health system is a ramification of Arroyo’s policy of neglect and incorrigible greed,” Santiago said.
“The cancer of corruption spreads deep and wide. At the very heart of this disease is Mrs. Arroyo,” Santiago ended