BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Vol. VIII, No. 7, March 16-29, 2008
In a Misa para sa Maralita (mass for the urban poor) March 14 at the Sto. Nino Church in Tondo, Manila, Bishop Broderick Pabillo called on Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Secretary Romulo Neri to tell all that he knows about the bribery and corruption involved in the cancelled National Broadband Network (NBN) contract with ZTE of China.
In his first testimony before the Senate, Neri, former secretary of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), said that he was offered a P200 million bribe by former Commission on Elections chief Benjamin Abalos in exchange for approving the project. But when asked by Senators about the details of his conversation with Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regarding the bribery attempt by Abalos and the approval of the contract, Neri refused to answer citing Executive Order 464.
He has since shunned Senate investigations on the cancelled broadband deal. When the Senate threatened to arrest him, Neri filed a temporary restraining order leading to a permanent injunction before the Supreme Court to bar the Senate from compelling him to testify
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has asked Malacanang to cancel EO 464, a gag order that disallows government officials to appear before Congress investigations without the president’s approval. The palace has heeded the church’s call by withdrawing the executive order but government officials, including Neri, who have been summoned by the Senate to shed light into the alleged anomalies in the ZTE-NBN deal continue to cite executive privilege as an excuse for not testifying.
“Tinaggal nga ang EO 464 pero ginagamit pa rin nila ang kanilang executive privilege para itago ang katotohanan,” Pabillo said during his homily last March 14. “Dapat sabihin na ni Neri ang kanyang nalalaman. Ilabas na nya ang mga dokumento ng NEDA upang malaman ng sambayanan ang totoong nangyari,” he continued. (The president already rescinded EO 464 but government officials continue to cite their executive privilege to conceal the truth. Neri should reveal all that he knows. He should show the pertinent NEDA documents to the general public so that the people would know what really happened.)
Pabillo also called on the urban poor to join protest activities to continue unraveling the truth about bribery in the government. “Kung tayo ay tatahimik lang, may kasalanan din tayo. Kung tatahimik ang mga tao, nagiging bahagi sila ng kadiliman,” (If we don’t speak out, we are also at sin. If the people would just keep quiet, they would partly responsible for the darkness surrounding us.) Pabillo said.
Pabillo also said anomalies involving government officials are an injustice to the poor. “Ang mga katiwalian ay hindi nagbibigay katarungan para sa maralita,” (Corruption is an injustice being committed against the poor.) said the bishop who also warned that there would be no reconciliation for as long as nobody is held accountable for the corruption scandals.
After the mass, more than 200 hundred people from the urban poor communities of Tondo gathered outside the church to partake in the “Unity Lunch” and the “Martsa ng Maralita para sa Katotohanan.” The march passed thru Divisioria Market and Recto, and proceeded to Mendiola bridge for a short program. The march of the poor then joined the youth-led interfaith-protest held at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila. (Bulatlat.com)