Quite near, Sec. Neri

THAT WAS CLOSE. Reports and reactions to the testimony of former socio-economic chief planner Romulo Neri at the Senate hearing Wednesday show he bears rays of light about what was happening in the ZTE controversy.

From his answers, the score is slowly taking shape —a bit clearer to the empty-handed public. Watching the hearings from Mindanao, which oftentimes carry the brunt of decisions and to a large extent problems imported from Manila, I felt much of the gaps remained unfilled.

Two things for sure from Neri in the hearings: he has accused Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos of offering bribe and that he told President Arroyo about it. The President accordingly told him not to accept it.

But the moment Mr. Secretary invoked executive privilege, it changed the picture. He left more questions hanging and the public guessing. Of course, the senate hearing is stuck in wonderland as the inquiry did not really get the facts.

Did the President pressure him to work on the approval of the project despite his report of bribery try? Did the President neglect the report? So many questions left hanging.

Although it is his right to protect himself from incrimination, too, the executive privilege cloaked details the public would want to know. So far we assume we were bared only half-truths. But how sure are we if we even have half for now?

I could not deny my high regard and respect for Neri. He who told me in an interview the BIMP EAGA was a wrong economic partner for Mindanao because there is not much for Mindanao in the subregional grouping. He is a known proponent of liberalization, and foremost in the air transport industry, which became a key issue in the EAGA fora recently.

Neri pointed out in my interview in February that open skies should not be limited to airlines from BIMP EAGA but also to countries like China, Korea, Japan, and Australia, countries he referred to as natural trading partners of the Philippines.

Of course he was countered by the Mindanao Economic Development Council by asking the industry leaders in Mindanao to rebut, to prove Neri wrong. It was a a policy statement that presented to the public that even NEDA has contested the concept.

For more details on Sec. Neri, here’s an input from Inq.net. I wonder what they put for Chairman Abalos?

The senate hearings on the ZTE – broadband deal bare to us the magnitude of information hidden from the public, and revealed only when compeled.

The deal seeks to address connectivity of national government agencies and local government units, including those in Mindanao. These hearings also impact on the call to cancel the contract with ZTE.

We badly needed heroes now to lead us to the truth. I was hoping Sec. Neri would live up to the expection. I hope he eventually does when he appears for another round of questioning later.

For now it was quite close, but still too far.


About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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