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May 19th
Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. GMA Urged to Lift Gag Order on Neri
GMA Urged to Lift Gag Order on Neri PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Sunday, 02 March 2008 02:54
S
enate Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today (March 2nd) dared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stop preventing Secretary Romulo Neri from testifying anew at the Senate inquiry into the national broadband controversy. He also asked the President to heed the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for transparency to curb graft in government.

Senator Pimentel said Neri’s continued refusal to return to the Senate to complete his testimony is working to his disadvantage in the face of widespread perception that he is concealing the truth and covering up the President’s involvement in the anomalous $329-million ZTE contract on the national broadband network (NBN) project.

Noting the Palace’s apparent inclination to heed the CBCPs call for the revocation of Executive Order 464 banning executive officials from facing congressional inquiry without presidential clearance, Senator Pimentel said the President can show good faith by telling Secretary Neri he is free to go back to the Senate to resume his testimony.

Mr. Neri is the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). He is under tremendous public pressure to speak up and supply the missing portions of his testimony. But Mr. Pimentel said Secretary Neri could not do so for fear of the consequences if he defies the President’s gag order.

Apparently, he said Mr. Neri is afraid of two things – first, the threat of being fired from his Cabinet post, and second, his fear for his life.

Senator Pimentel cited a Senate testimony of Mr. Neri’s friend and former technical consultant, Rodolfo Lozada, that the CHED chairman and former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) had confided to him about the death threats he had been receiving.

“GMA is using ‘mutually-assured destruction’ tactics to keep Secretary Neri away from the Senate,” the minority leader said.

“Secretary Neri knows the President can kick him out from CHED because he is not qualified for the post and from the Monetary Board he is no longer NEDA head.”

Senator Pimentel said Secretary Neri’s continued to stay in the Cabinet has become untenable after Mr. Lozada testified that Mr. Neri had once described the President as “evil” in one of their conversations about the ZTE-NBN deal.

Despite this damning information, he said Mrs. Arroyo has desisted from removing Secretary Neri as CHED chairman since she knows that the moment she does this and loses her hold on him, nothing will prevent him from going back to the Senate and from spilling the beans about the ZTE-NBN irregularity.

Mr. Pimentel noted that Secretary Neri’s movements are being restricted as he is being guarded by a team of soldiers from the Presidential Security Group.

He said he is inclined to think that Secretary Neri is willing to return to the Senate’s witness stand specially in the light of revelations that the CHED chairman had met secretly with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal last December 7 at the Asian Institute of Management.

During that meeting, Secretary Neri supposedly explained why he is constrained from returning to the Senate although he broached a proposal for concerned civil society groups to put up a so-called patriotic fund to help government officials like him to tide over financial difficulties after turning while-blowers and losing their jobs in the process. # # #



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Last Updated on Sunday, 02 March 2008 03:09
 

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