Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Romulo Neri Accuses Ben Abalos of 200 Million Peso Bribe Offer; Miriam Calls China Inventor of Corruption

Former Director General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Romulo Neri has testified under oath that Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos offered him a 200 million peso (US$ 4 million) bribe to approve a project with Chinese firm ZTE [Shenzen] to build a nationwide computer network to interconnect all government offices and agencies, the ZTE National Broadband Network Project. He made the claim upon questioning first by Sen. Loren Legarda and then by Senator Panfilo Lacson. Asked if he reported the matter to President Arroyo, he answered yes, that she told him to reject the bribe but does not know how and why the project was later approved by the President. Paradoxically, after accusing Abalos and excusing Arroyo, "opening up the conversation" so to speak, Mr. Neri refused to answer further questions about his discussion with the President about the matter, invoking Executive Order No. 464 and its provision on EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE. Under questioning by Senate Majority Leader, Neri admitted he had no written order from the President or Executive Secretary Ermita, to so invoke executive privilege. The Senate is now in a quandary about how to deal with this invocation of executive privilege when the session resumes shortly. If you ask me, the Palace may have already decided to let Abalos hang, whilst safeguarding the President.

Luckily Philipppine Commentary has many posts on this matter of executive privilege:

Supreme Court Upheld the Half of EO 464 that GMA Really Needs

King Solomon Just Cut the Baby in Half

Executive Privilege Covers Information -- Not Executives

Supreme Court Decisions As English Grammar and Composition

Before all these developments, Foreign Relations Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago delivered one of her patented tirades in which she declared China and the Chinese as the "inventors of corruption" using sex, golf and lucrative bribes "to corrupt human civilization". She called the hearings a public squabble over sleazy bribe monies, and promptly walked out.

The statements could damage Philippine-Chinese relations. I am counting on it! There may be dozens of ZTE-type projects from what has just been discovered here.

UPDATES: In part 2 of today's Senate hearing on the ZTE National Broadband Network deal, several senators asked a number of good questions. I have to adjust my personal evaluations of them.

Pia "Compañera" Cayetano asked a very clever question of ALL the resource persons and witnesses present, including Romulo Neri, Joey de Venecia, Mendoza, Abalos, Formoso, etc, whether any of them participated in, were the subjects of, or were aware of the "discreet investigation" into the project that the Palace claimed yesterday to have completed. Not a single one of them answered in the affirmative, nor could any of them claim to know who did participate in it. Pia ended with the most sarcastic pronunciation of the term "discreet investigation." Touché!

MAR "Mr. Palengke" Roxas meanwhile wrestled for a long time with Romulo Neri over the matter of what happened after he had reported the 200 million peso bribe offer from Abalos to President Arroyo, which seemed to be nothing. At one point, near the end, he got Neri admit that even if he knew that the project itself was tainted by briberies and corruption, he still agreed with the continuance of the project even if nothing appears to have been done about the reported irregularites. This Mar Roxas considered to be a stunning admission, wondering if this was now the level and standard of public officials in their handling of the people's money.

After Mar Roxas asked a question on behalf of the detained Senator Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes, Juan Ponce Enrile objected calling it a precedent that was not accorded to him while he was incarcerated himself. To which Panfilo "Ping" Lacson moved that the next hearing be held at the Marine HQ at Fort Bonifacio so that a member of the Upper House who is "helpless" might have a chance to participate.



The Senate has gone into Executive Session in order to find out from Romulo Neri the basis for his invocation of executive privilege.

Meanwhile, Rolex Suplico announced that tomorrow he would file a case for IMPEACHMENT against Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos.

16 comments:

Manila Bay Watch said...

Dean,

In the liveblog feed today by Mlq(outstanding as usual), Neri said (or could be someone else) said that there were no other proposals so difficult to make comparisson - one senator quipped, NEDA didn’t do job properly - then insisted that this deal was based on tied loan.

Actually it’s line agency that didn’t do its job properly - how can they be so sure that other govts can’t propose better loan terms if they didn’t ask other govts. All they have to do is inform embassies in Manila soliciting proposals. Embassies would have done job for them contacting industries. DoTC didn’t even have to get off its backside and proposals would be “pouring in”.

Embassy economic post would have lobbied with their govt for back to back govt loans.

Only way to know if Chinese offer is good offer.

In other words, however they want to slice this as being tied to China govt loan, etc., this ZTE deals smacks of corruption, not only financially but morally.

At the very least, RP govt line agency has been very negligent and NEDA has not been up to their task. At that level, it’s RP chief exec who should be blamed. Am trying to be very objective here and do not wish to accuse her of anything at this point save for gross negligence. She has command responsiblity.

For one who is reputed to be micro management prone, she overlooked, and only god knows why, the flaws and gross negligence committed by her cabinet men in the performance of their tasks.

This whole NBN deal with the Chinese can be seen like this: ZTE deal is purely commercial transaction even if backed by their own govt banks (Chinese) so it’s not as if this deal is a national security treaty matter involving China that president cannot question or compare it with other possible offers from other countries.

What could have compelled her to overlook this option?

Any way you look at it, this deal is fishy.

And really, even if I try my darnest best to be cold about this issue, I see corrupt hands dipping their fingers in govt treasury to take money out to put in their own personal, private banks.

Manila Bay Watch said...

Btw, Arroyo the senator seems to be the one who’s asked the more relevant questions.

Pity other senators didn't pick up the line of questioning: what abalos doing brokering for a deal with a line agency very much outside his turf.

Highly irregular indeed to say the least.

Even if i can’t see Abalos’ body language, his replies point to his being evasive, and much as one wants to give him benefit of doubt, the man is falling all over himself to be able to lie. (Fellow is a lawyer so knows how to parry questions - not seriously lawyerly in my book but definitely he seems to be trying to play to the gallery.)

One thing though, he can't erase the perception from even the most objective reader (ok, not me) that he brokered, fixed the deal for ZTE.

By deduction: To be able to go around Speaker Joe de Venecia for deals of this kind or that Speaker has shown interest in and seems to back (ok it’s his son’s), only another ‘bigger’, more powerful official can do that at election time; easy to dedeuce that among protagonists present, only Abalos could do that. The next would have been president.

Manila Bay Watch said...

As to Miriam Santiago, so difficult to evaluate her, i.e., when she's serious or not. Just too temperamental or unpredictable to be really credible. She's definitely not one I'd call a stable person.

DJB Rizalist said...

MBW,
Miriam just has a speech problem. She has a blog where they publish all her speeches and writings. If you don't hear her in your head while reading her stuff, she really is a great lawyer and constitutionalist. even today, it is HER privileged speech on executive privilege that the Senate is using to guide it in deciding what to do with Neri.

I think though that she might be fomenting a war between the Philippines and China when she said, "The Chinese have invented CORRUPTION for the rest of human civilization." hehe

Manila Bay Watch said...

Is that so?

OK will try to read her.

Re formenting China RP war

If true, she's not completely without her senses... seems she's more strategical than we think - what better way to unite a nation behind its leader (her patroness for that matter) than by waging war against another, pointing to a potential enemy from without is a good tactic, witness Argentina (then fledgling hugely on the economic front) launching an invasion of the Falklands.

Manila Bay Watch said...

Dean,

am on quezon's liveblog feed.

If I were senator, I would ask Neri following:

In conscience and deep in your heart, could you say in your capacity as a respected technocrat (economist or whatever his/Neri’s title or profession is), that this contract or whatever it’s called, not disadvantageous to govt if only to refer to fact that from 262 million dollars, bloated to 330 million in a few months…

Answer yes it is disadvantageous or no it’s not disadvantageous and explain why or why not.

Senators MUST ASK QUESTIONS THAT WOULD MAKE THE GUY SPEAK AT LENGTH, TO EXPLAIN…

I get the impression reading Quezon’s live feed that they cut him off and only ask stupid quesitions so they can in turn show off to the gallery!!! Dumb thing to do if they want to get Neri to expose what he knows, then they are not doing it properly.

The guy is a technocrat so let him explain his side of the story by making him lecture if need be - and that’s when you pounce on what he said if it’s clear he’s hiding something.

Going round and round serves no purpose.

blackshama said...

We have to remind Miriam Santiago that it was the Chinese of the Singaporean kind that removed corruption in Singapore. Singapore is one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

Corruption knows no nationality. What it needs is greed. Greed like pride is found everywhere.

Enough of this Miriam racism and prejudice! Santiago's neurons must be short circuiting! If we have her DNA analyzed for Chinese markers, we will find a heap of Chinese genes! I am pretty sure she has the spoonlike depression in her incisors, a morphological characteristic of Peking man and all Chinese today.

Amadeo said...

Dean, re retouching pics for publication I really do not have any problem.

Except that in this particular case, pity Romy his easy smile has been frozen in time by the tape covering his mouth.

Best to use a pic with a more serious pose. HeHeHe.

Happy to report that in spite of the negative press, some evenhanded reporting about Romy has been undertaken by the Inquirer and Mr. Babe Romualdez.

DJB Rizalist said...

He's a friend. He will have the last laugh!

baycas2 said...

The buck went through mama gloria’s ear and stopped in her brilliant brain.

President Truman, in his speeches, referred to the saying “The buck stops here!” and specifically asserted: “The President – whoever he is – has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job.”

I believe Mr. Neri was candid and forthright when he recounted telling gloria of the bribe attempt. I am pretty sure Mr. Neri doesn’t get to hear a lot of these bribe attempts (as he might have been appalled when abalos said it to him). Therefore it’s possibly not everyday that he reports to gloria such attempts to make her callous in not doing anything about it.

Mr. Neri already elevated the situation to the acting highest (but probably the smallest) official in the land and yet that official did nothing as if no wrongdoing has been committed. gloria is remiss in her duty.

I hope gloria doesn’t go scot-free this time even though it’s just bribe attempt that was phoned to her. As others may recall, garci has intimated (also through phone – the garci wiretap) to her the “soft touch” policy (short of labeling it kidnap/hostage-taking) employed during the Rashma Hali Affair. gloria didn’t prevent it from occurring that’s why Ms. Harriet lost Rashma, their witness, to the government side. The latter incident is a more serious offense but the main difference now is that there is one Romulo L. Neri who is declaring gloria knows of the bribe attempt and that !

-----

What I like to ask Mr. Neri yesterday are these:

You said you have poor memory, but aren’t we all (not expecting an answer)? There are situations wherein you can recall incidents in your life when it’s worth remembering or even not good to remember, like embarrassing moments, am I right? Anyway, let me ask again…Did you report abalos’ bribe attempt (as you have conjectured abalos was doing) to your president? How come you remembered (hoping to extract the circumstances surrounding it that made him recall the incidents)?

Do you often get to receive bribe attempts? How many? From whom (no names please – just designations, public official or private individual)? For how much?

Do you often report these bribe attempts (if there are any, other than abalos’ attempt) to your president?

Are you credible to your president when you phoned the incident to her? How did you feel when you unburdened yourself of that responsibility?

Now, did it ever occur to you that there was no investigation on the bribe attempt simply because you weren’t questioned about it? If in the affirmative, how did you feel?

Were the bright prospects of the NBN deal blinded you as to the wrongdoing you yourself received?

Karl M. Garcia said...

The brenda now is sending an apology to China.

Now sasabihin nya mother in law nya chinese....para saan yung tantrum nya...to make a point?


She is the foreign relations committee chair,and she knows perception is everything.

DJB Rizalist said...

Karl,
There will certainly be consequences for her indiscretion, though I was indeed surprised to hear Solita Monsod agree with her during an interview with Pia Hontiveros, about the "racial slur" as Teresa Ang See called it today. It certainly puts Miriam in a tough spot, and her quick apology shows it. After all she was making a big point about "propriety" eh?

baycas2 said...

discreet investigation it was…

a secret discreet investigation (only declassified 2 days ago by gloria). teves, favila and gaite were tasked by ermita (on orders from gloria) to investigate discreetly the bribe offer.

the investigation that was so DiSecretly conducted that even those witnesses present yesterday in the senate NBN deal inquiry were unaware of!

…please read lawyer marichu c. lambino’s take on the uncorroborated bribe offer (her blogposts yesterday - marichulambinodotwordpressdotcom).

HILLBLOGGER said...

Based on the questions and answers in Manolo's live feed, one can easily come to the conclusion that most of the Senators were doing IMPROVISATION WORK!

Extraordinary that 2o odd something of them couldn't even begin to close in on Neri because of their stupid questions and their idiotic wranglings over trivia.

Waste of precious ration!

HILLBLOGGER said...

I've just learned a new word over at Ellen's blog: yugyugan

Abalos, if he were smart, should have proposed a yugyugan with Neri - pretty sure Neri wouldn't have ratted on him after that. But as ever, Abalos was caught with his pants down and he got nothing for doing it. Dumbo!

DJB Rizalist said...

The impeachment could actually prosper because of JDV. I think he knows that chacha is dead; thus his only chance is to get on board with that Young Turk express train in the Senate. If he decides to go Opposition, he could take the whole Congress with him. It's subtle, but I think there is a strong shift in the Lower House.

It'll be a great test of an earlier theory I'd proposed: that a Hanging Senate is not sufficient to bring about an impeachment in the House, but it IS necessary. Should be interesting to watch.