Saturday, February 23, 2008

A statement from economists of the Ateneo de Manila University

To a fellow economist and former colleague, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

A statement from economists of the Ateneo de Manila University

We are outraged by the revelations made by Engr. Rodolfo Noel Lozada
Jr. at the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon hearings last 8 February
2008 about the overpriced Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment
Company-National Broadband Network (ZTE-NBN) project. The project
has no clear public rationale in the first place. We are dismayed by
the revelations of Mr. Lozada that former Commission on Election
Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., with the alleged involvement of First
Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, ordered the inclusion in the proposed
project a large amount of kickbacks, amounting to as much as 130
million US dollars (or more than 5.2 billion pesos), enough money to
remove the yearly public school classroom backlog, or purchase 5.8
million sacks of NFA rice, or alternatively secure the basic needs
of about 29,000 poor families for a year. Simply put, a lot is being
sacrificed for the greed of the few.

We are angered by the continuing attempt to cover up the anomalous
circumstances surrounding the project, including the supposed
kidnapping of Mr. Lozada to keep him from testifying in the Senate.
We demand that government remove the cloak of Executive Order 464
and the invocation of executive privilege to allow public officials
that have knowledge on the transaction to publicly testify on the
circumstances of the deal. We demand the National Economic and
Development Authority (NEDA) to release records of the meetings that
allowed the contract to be processed. Because of the nature of the
work of the NEDA in national economic planning to promote national
development and public welfare (and not for private or individual
interests), these minutes are public records. We want Secretary
Romulo Neri, an Ateneo high school alumnus and supposed staunch
advocate of reforms to eradicate transactional politics and
oligarchic dominance in the country, to reveal all that he knows
about the matter. Efficiency and equity demand no less.

We abhor the habit of this administration of forging secret deals
and engaging in non-transparent processes in developing and
contracting large infrastructure projects, especially foreign donor-
funded programs, contrary to the tenets of good governance. We call
on friends and colleagues in the government, especially the alumni
of our university, and other sectors to help ferret out the truth
about other alleged irregular deals entered into by corrupt public
officials, including the fertilizer scam, the Technical Education
and Skills Development Authority book scam and the North Rail

We urge our fellow economist, alumna, and former Ateneo colleague,
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to fully explain and account for all the
anomalies under her administration to prevent our country from
plunging into another political and economic crisis. Indeed, we are
dismayed that Mrs. Arroyo has not exercised the vast powers and
resources available to the Presidency to ensure that large-scale
corruption in the government is not only blocked but also punished,
and that these irregularities have only increased political
instability and uncertainty in the country. We are also offended
that the Presidency has instead utilized these vast powers and
resources to turn its back from servicing the public and contribute
to the advancement of private greed, including the Machiavellian
buying of congressmen, governors, and everybody else that get its
way. And sadly, these abuses have eroded the meaning and legitimacy
of the Presidency. If she fails to fully account and explain the
anomalies and corrupt practices in her administration, the most
honorable thing she can do is to resign from the Presidency.

Finally, we publicly pledge to heed the Catholic Bishops' call to
communal action by supporting the activities that would promote
transparency, accountability, and good governance, and we call on
our fellow social scientists and academics to support this advocacy.
We pledge to make our voices heard by committing to various ways of
peaceful and non-violent political mobilization.

– Signatures –

Fernando T. Aldaba

Cristina M. Bautista

Germelino M. Bautista

Edsel L. Beja, Jr.

Diana U. del Rosario

Luis F. Dumlao

Cielito F. Habito

Leonardo A. Lanzona

Joseph Anthony Y. Lim

Romelia I. Neri

Ellen H. Palanca

Malou A. Perez

Joselito T. Sescon

Tara Sia-Go

Patrick Gerard C. Simon-King

Rosalina P. Tan

Philip Arnold P. TuaƱo

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