POSTSCRIPT / November 11, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter
Twitter

JdV's call for moral rebirth absurd -- JPE

HERD VIRUS: It has become politically expedient to run with the herd in the direction pointed by the major media as they forage for headlines.

The Senate has not been spared by this herd virus. Some members of this small but influential chamber simply follow the line drawn by media, and are rewarded for it by landing in the headlines.

The symbiosis works both for news media and newsmakers. The VIP echoes what big media say or suggest, and he lands on the front page. His being quoted, in turn, validates the original media line.

Repeat the process in a cycle, amplifying it at every opportunity — and the unsuspecting public is thus conditioned to accept nothing but the reverberating line. In time, the public will reject anything that does not jibe with it.

* * *

TRUE & CORRECT?: That has been the case with a number of big issues hogging the news. The tragedy is that what is echoing all around because of the mass conditioning is not necessarily always the whole truth.

For instance, in the case of the National Broadband Network project, the line as it seems to have been planted in the public mind by selective emphasis and endless repetition is that:

The project, awarded to the Chinese ZTE Corp, is overpriced; that Joey the businessman-son of Speaker Jose de Venecia exposed the irregularities in the public interest; that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo told Joey to back off; that then Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos tried to bribe Joey and NEDA Director-General Romulo Neri; and that President Gloria Arroyo was forced to drop the contract to escape impeachment.

Are all of the above points true and correct?

* * *

INCOMPLETE PICTURE: The problem is that the watching public is handicapped. We do not have direct personal knowledge of what actually happened.

We rely on what is reported in the media doing their best on the basis of documents and testimonies of officials, technicians and other parties involved.

Still, it is possible that we have not been getting the complete and balanced story.

This stood out after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile pointed out that Joey and his father Speaker De Venecia were not entirely lily-pure in the NBN controversy.

Digging into the De Venecias’ curious history of involvement in projects funded by China, Enrile recalled that they were also caught up in the controversial Northrail project that was similarly investigated in 2005.

* * *

ROCKING THE BOAT: Enrile reminded the Speaker that with his involvement in Northrail alone, he may not have the moral high ground to support his son’s attacks on the NBN/ZTE contract.

“Speaker De Venecia cannot claim Northrail to be an old issue,” he said. “It is very relevant to the NBN project inasmuch as the two may show a pattern of interference on government projects by the Speaker’s office.”

Enrile recalled De Venecia asking him on March 12, 2005, “not to rock the boat” in a meeting in a room on the 10th floor of the InterContinental Hotel (not the Dusit, as he earlier said, after checking his diary).

He said De Venecia talked to him after his speech in the Senate lambasting Northrail’s overpricing.

He said the meeting was arranged by Raul Lambino, the same person who allegedly arranged the meeting between Gen. Jaime delos Santos and De Venecia, also upon the request of the Speaker.

* * *

GRAFT RAPS: The senator said the Speaker has no one else to blame but himself and his son Joey if their name and the Speaker’s office got entangled in the NBN scandal.

It was the younger De Venecia, he recalled, who revealed before the Senate that the Speaker arranged several meetings at their house in Forbes Park with government officials in relation to the NBN project.

“When your son is angling for a government project and you call to meet government officials who hold the power to award that project, there surely is something wrong going on,” Enrile said.

Complaints have been filed against De Venecia with the House ethics committee for his alleged involvement — a case of conflict of interest? — in the granting of congressional franchises to companies of his son while he sat as Speaker.

* * *

INFLUENCE-PEDDLING?: Citing NBN documents, Enrile recalled an official of Amsterdam Holdings Inc., the company that Joey wanted to take over the NBN project, linked the Speaker’s office to possible efforts to influence officials to favor AHI.

Enrile said: “I have a pending request for the appearance before the Senate of Mr. Ernesto Garcia, an AHI official who wrote a letter to DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza prefaced with a curious statement that he wrote that letter upon the instruction of, and I quote, ‘the Speaker’s office.’”

Garcia’s letter included a draft of another letter addressed to then NEDA chief Romulo Neri, intended for the signature of Mendoza.

* * *

ABSURD CALL: The draft letter was an endorsement of AHI’s proposal from the DOTC to NEDA for the firm to undertake the project. Mendoza did not sign or send the letter.

Enrile said: “What is the business of the Office of the Speaker to be issuing instructions to the executive of a private company?

“What is the interest of the Speaker or the House of Representatives in AHI to warrant that statement that they were getting instructions from the Office of the Speaker?

“To be blunt about it, was the Speaker interested in the ZTE contract, such that his office was issuing instructions to the executive of a company supposedly owned by his son? And if so, for what purpose?”

Enrile said the overpricing of Northrail, a pet project of Speaker De Venecia, and Joey’s involvement in the NBN project made absurd their call for “moral regeneration” in government.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 11, 2007)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.