Benjie Oliveros | Justice Should be the First Order of Business of the Next Administration


It is now only less than a month before Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo leaves Malacañang and the Filipino people could not wait to get it over with. Despite the flak that the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic are getting for bungling the automated elections, and even if the old problems of vote-buying – which seems to have become more massive and blatant during the 2010 elections – violence, threats and harassments, and voter disenfranchisement combined with glitches and electronic fraud to mar the conduct and results of the May 2010 elections, the people seem to have accepted that Sen. Noynoy Aquino would, come June 30, take over the reins of government.

Meanwhile, Arroyo seems to be doing some house cleaning. She has made herself scant and the official announcement from Malacañang is that she is ensuring a smooth transition to the next administration. However, recent developments show that this house cleaning has more to do with ensuring that her flanks are protected when she steps down from power than keeping everything in order for the eventual turnover. Just recently, the Ombudsman affirmed and reaffirmed its decision clearing Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel “Mike” Arroyo of any involvement in the anomalies surrounding the failed National Broadband Network (NBN) contract with ZTE of China.

It would be remembered that the NBN-ZTE deal became controversial because first, under the contract, the government was committing to pay ZTE for the setting up of the broadband network connecting all its agencies when a build-operate-transfer deal was being offered by other bidders. Second, Romulo Neri, former director of the National Economic Development Authority, revealed that former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. offered him P200 million to recommend the approval of the project. Third, Neri revealed that he reported the bribe offer to Pres. Arroyo and yet she still signed the contract.

With the supposed clearing of the Arroyo couple, Neri is left holding the bag. He is now crying that he is being made a fall guy. What else could he expect? In refusing to reveal the role of the Arroyos he made himself the fall guy.

And this is not the only bribery and corruption scandal the Arroyos were involved in. For sure, they are busy covering their tracks because the parliamentary immunity of an elected representative in the Lower House applies only to crimes punishable by an imprisonment of six years or less. She also could not be 100 percent sure that she could use the loyalties of the 100 or so elected Lakas-Kampi representatives as leverage to exact concessions from the Aquino government, that is if no such deal has been made so far.

What could be done to ensure that the Arroyos would be held accountable when they step down from power?

First and foremost, Sen. Noynoy Aquino should fulfill his promise to investigate not only the corruption and bribery cases the Arroyos were involved in but also the numerous cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations, which increased dramatically under the Arroyo government.

Second, the former officials of the Arroyo government should reveal what they know even to the extent of exposing their own role, if any, in these anomalies. This includes Neri, but more so for those who will be joining the Aquino government such as the members of the Hyatt 10. The Hyatt 10 comprised of former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Education Secretary Florencio Abad, Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin (deceased), Trade Secretary Juan Santos, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rene Villa, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, National Anti-Poverty Commission Chair Imelda Nicolas, Internal Revenue Commissioner Guillermo Parayno and Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina held key positions in government making them privy to what was happening in Malacañang, as well as the doings of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Surely they know more than what they have revealed so far. It is a pity that Boncodin died before revealing what she knows given her key role in the financial transactions of the Arroyo government, but it is certain that her colleagues know what she knew.

Also Soliman, Abad, Quintos-Deles, as well as Liberal Party secretary general Chito Gascon belong to the same group or network as current Defense Sec. Norberto Gonzales who is being linked to the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances because of his role in Oplan Bantay Laya, the counterinsurgency program of the Arroyo government, being the National Security adviser and now Defense secretary.

There could be no genuine “change” if justice would not be served. History has proven this when the Marcos family was allowed to go scot free, and now the dictator’s wife Imelda is a congresswoman, son Bongbong is senator, and daughter Imee is governor of Ilocos. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now representative of Pampanga. If Aquino would not exercise the political will to run after her and those who are in the know such as the Hyatt 10 would not expose her, then the Filipino people would, in the course of the struggle for genuine freedom, justice and democracy, run after all of them to exact justice. (

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