Bishop Wants People Behind Abalos, Neri Charged

Monday, May 31st, 2010

MANILA, May 27, 2010-A ranking Catholic Church leader said authorities still have lot of things to do to prove there sincerity in prosecuting people behind a controversy-ridden government transaction.

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo believes key personalities behind the botched US$329 million National Broadband Network project with Chinese firm, ZTE Corp. involved other top government officials.

Former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos and Social Security System president Romulo Nero are currently facing graft charges for their alleged part in the anomalous project.

The Office of the Ombudsman said they will file the case before the Sandiganbayan in due time.

The Ombudsman, however, cleared President Arroyo from the charges, citing her presidential immunity. Her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, meanwhile, was absolved due to lack of probable cause.

It also ordered the immediate suspension of Neri after it dismissed his appeal of an earlier ruling recommending the filing of graft and administrative charges against him and Abalos.

But Lagdameo said while Abalos and Neri, then National Economic and Development Authority director general, may have participation in the project, it is also possible that are getting "instructions" from someone more powerful than them.

"My question is from whom will Abalos and Neri receive commands? For me, it seems that they were only instrumental...," said Lagdameo.

The former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) added more information is yet to surface when the two accused face the court.

"I urged them to face the accusation and tell the truth... they are bound to tell the truth," he said.

An official of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), for her part, said she is pinning her hopes on the new president to address the situation.

AMRSP co-chairperson Sr. Mary John Mananzan said that she is hoping that presumptive president-elect Benigno Aquino III, would be able to keep his promise and fight corruption.

"That was what he (Aquino) promised that he would change the system and that he would fight corruption. The Office of the Ombudsman is one of the hubs of corruption...We look forward to a President Aquino administration," added Mananzan.

Mananzan, who is providing sanctuary to NBN-ZTE star witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., believed that the Ombudsman should not have cleared Mr. Arroyo of graft charges.

"He (Mr. Arroyo) is involved (in the NBN-ZTE deal). They are stupid if they say that he is not involved...He is more responsible because he is on the top," the AMRSP official said. (CBCPNews)