[Blueboard] Let the Truth Be Told: Statement of the Ateneo Political Science Department

Benjamin T. Tolosa, Jr. btolosa at ateneo.edu
Wed Feb 20 06:34:55 PHT 2008

Statement of the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Political Science
on the ZTE-NBN Controversy

The events leading to, during and after the testimony of star witness  
Rodolfo ?Jun? Lozada on the anomalous US$330 million national  
broadband network deal with Chinese company ZTE depict a classic tale  
of how allegations of corruption, abuse of power and human rights  
violations are and have been addressed under the government of Gloria  
Macapagal-Arroyo: evade, deny and cover-up. For more than five years  
now, this modus operandi has kept the government barely stable, albeit  
hounded by unresolved cases that have piled up over the years: failure  
to automate and modernize the elections, alleged fraud during the 2004  
presidential elections, the fertilizer scam, and extrajudicial  
killings among the most prominent with the NBN-ZTE deal as the most  

As a response to these scandals, the Arroyo government has not  
hesitated in deploying mechanisms meant to suppress the truth behind  
the allegations. For three consecutive years ? 2005, 2006, and 2007 ?  
Arroyo?s allies in the House of Representatives have made a sham out  
of the impeachment proceedings by filing weak complaints, suppressing  
evidence and harassing members of the opposition in congress. In 2006,  
Arroyo issued Executive Order 464 (EO464) prohibiting members of the  
cabinet from testifying in congressional investigations without her  
prior approval. While the Supreme Court has in broad strokes already  
decided against the legality of the said order, Arroyo has yet to  
revoke the directive. During the Senate hearings on the NBN-ZTE  
controversy in the past months, Arroyo?s cabinet members have  
persistently invoked ?executive privilege? in order to evade answering  
substantive questions that may shed light on the issues. The  
administration has also not been reluctant to co-opt, bribe and  
threaten government officials willing to testify about their knowledge  
of corruption. The dole-outs, payolas and other forms of inducements  
attested to by Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio and Bulacan Governor  
Joselito Mendoza last year stand witness to this practice.

On the other hand, the Arroyo administration has given its loyal  
allies a freehand in pursuing their self-interests in wild abandon.  
The top brass of the military remains shielded by a culture of  
impunity despite being implicated by the United Nations and other  
international human rights watchdogs in the continued rise of  
extrajudicial killings. Time and again, Arroyo has toyed with the idea  
of constitutional change to sate the hunger for power and influence of  
her congressional and local government units (LGU) allies who have  
stood behind her in crisis moments.

These are not isolated cases of corruption but components of an  
interwoven web of tactics that result from an insecure administration  
resting upon repressive mechanisms on the one hand and unrestrained  
pursuit of its allies? self-interests on the other hand because it has  
lost the people?s trust and confidence. These are systematized and  
brazen attacks on key democratic institutions supposed to guarantee  
the public?s right to information and the accountability of elected  
and appointed officials. Such assaults have alienated a large part of  
the Filipino public from political engagement and have sowed  
widespread cynicism among the youth. But this is hardly unintended ?  
keeping the public disaffected means Arroyo remains in power.

As educators, scholars and students of politics, we in the Department  
of Political Science are deeply disturbed by this growing sense of  
disenchantment and distrust in the democratic process as a result of  
the Arroyo government?s continued mockery of our political and  
judicial institutions.

Our call resonates with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the  
Philippines? (CBCP), the Watch and Pray Movement?s, the Ateneo School  
of Government?s and the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan?s framework of  
truth, accountability and reform:

?	We appeal to the conscience of government officials to divulge what  
they know about corruption and abuses of the present administration.  
We ask them to heed the CBCP?s call for personal conversion. As a  
start, we demand from Secretary Romulo Neri nothing but the whole  
truth of his knowledge of and participation in anomalous deals of the  
Arroyo government. We demand that he be allowed to testify in the  
Senate investigation without threats to his life and security. We  
support efforts by the Church, other universities and civil society  
groups in providing sanctuaries to would-be-whistleblowers as well as  
the collection of funds for their material sustenance and legal defense.

?	We ask the Supreme Court to rule without delay on the petitions  
filed by Senators Manuel A. Roxas and Benigno Aquino III requesting  
that the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) release  
pertinent documents on the NBN-ZTE deal. Similarly, we ask the Supreme  
Court to resolve the petition filed by Secretary Neri on the question  
of executive privilege and his appearance in the Senate  
investigations. Neri?s participation in the Senate hearings and the  
NEDA documents are being claimed as covered by EO 464. We reiterate  
calls for President Arroyo to finally revoke EO 464.

?	We support the proposal to establish an Independent Counsel through  
the passage of a statute that will investigate and prosecute those who  
are culpable. We urge the public to closely watch the investigation  
being conducted by the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice, even  
as we consider these as fresh attempts of the administration to  
confuse the people, frighten and destroy the morale of present and  
future witnesses and sow mistrust of the Senate-led investigation.

?	We call on lawyers, civil society organizations and private  
individuals to link with each other to gather information that will  
clearly establish the culpability of government officials named by the  
witnesses in the NBN-ZTE deal and the abduction of Jun Lozada. We ask  
them to disseminate such information so the public can be guided in  
judging the issues themselves.

?	We urge the public, their immediate and wider communities to  
continue being vigilant and informed. We put our trust in the public?s  
judgment in actualizing the bishops? call for communal action through  
mass demonstrations and public forums where people can be informed and  
can express their collective outrage in a militant but non-violent  

?	We realize that the success of these efforts rests largely upon a  
citizenry committed to the pursuit of truth, active and informed  
engagement with state institutions. We commend all whistleblowers for  
their courage and for showing us that no matter how much we are part  
or have been part of corruption and injustice ? in little or large  
ways ? we can still redeem ourselves and bring hope back in our  
democratic institutions. We hope that their initiatives can help  
transform our political culture towards upholding truth and  

We believe, however, that a restoration of the people?s trust in our  
democratic institutions can only begin when the personalities  
identified by Jun Lozada and by previous whistleblowers are held  
accountable for suppressing and covering-up the truth behind  
allegations of wrongdoings in the government.

Failure of the administration to do so justifies the intensifying  
public clamor for Arroyo and her government to resign.

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