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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Time for honest men to take a stand in NBN-ZTE mess

Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero called on Social Security System President Romulo Neri to stand up for truth, come clean, and divulge everything he knows about the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal.

"All it takes for corruption to continue is the inaction of men and women. I call on Secretary Neri to follow the example of Rodolfo 'Jun' Lozada and stop protecting those truly responsible," Escudero said.

"Unless there are more Jun Lozadas – men and women who courageously come forward to expose corruption in government – then this problem will continue to haunt our country and hinder its growth," the 39-year old senator added.

Neri was the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chief when the NBN-ZTE scandal broke out. He claimed he was bribed by then Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos to approve the deal.

Abalos was the alleged facilitator of the botched telecom deal. The Office of the Ombudsman had recommended the filing of graft charges against Abalos and Neri but cleared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Miguel Arroyo of any involvement in the deal.

"Secretary Neri is now in a position to help authorities bring to justice those who are involved and may have masterminded the deal. He is now being made the fall guy of the culprits. He should reconsider his invocation of executive privilege and reveal all he knows about the NBN-ZTE deal," Escudero said.

Neri testified before the Senate that Abalos offered him a bribe and that he had informed President Arroyo about it.

"Sec, me 200 ka dito," Neri quoted Abalos as saying to him at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong City.

Escudero said corruption has often been cited as the Philippines' biggest problem. He estimates billions of pesos are lost every year to graft.

Under the Arroyo Administration, the country ranked 141th in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index last year. In 2004, the Philippines was ranked 102, and then slipped to 117 the next year. In 2006, it was down to 121st and then fell further 131st in 2007.

"These billions can be used for educating our youth, developing our inadequate infrastructure, and delivering important basic services," he said.

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