Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What to ask Romulo Neri

Romulo Neri has agreed to return to the Senate this Friday but there are three questions that the senators may not ask of him (thanks to DJB for the original link):
  1. Did the President follow the NBN contract up with you?
  2. Did the President tell you to prioritize ZTE?
  3. Did the President tell you to approve it?

Such a condition poses a setback, but it is not, I believe, an insurmountable one. It really all depends on how the good senators comport themselves.

Gauging from his past statements, both under oath and in public, Neri has meticulously kept to the boundaries of what he can say and what he cannot. He has not lied outright. Instead, he has taken shelter under Executive Privilege; infuriating as it may seem, it conforms to what he believes is proper in the dealings between a President and a cabinet member. Simply put: Neri is a scrupulous man.

So what's the solution here?

First, the good senators should not impinge on any discussion about Neri's dealings with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At the merest hint of that, Neri will take cover under Executive Privilege and shut up tighter than a clam. Certain senators, unfortunately, have a manic compulsion to indict Arroyo in the most blatant and most dramatic fashion possible. That is not the way. Implication must be implicit: Neri must be coaxed; it is up to the senators (and the public) to connect the dots.

Second, make use of Jun Lozada. I believe there is still a strong personal connection between these two men (and not the sort that Jamby Madrigal wishes to imply). Lozada knows how Neri's mind works; Lozada knows what questions to ask. The senators must exercise some humility and allow Lozada to guide them on the subject and manner of inquiry.

Third, there is so much out in the open already that it's foolish to shake down Neri for more. Instead, they should use Neri to corroborate available testimonies and evidence, in particular, those made by Lozada and Dante Madriaga (bearing in mind anything that will directly implicate Arroyo.) Strengthen existing links instead of creating new and weak ones.

Fourth, have Neri explain his web-of-corruption charts. These charts have already been made public, and while Neri may claim forgetfulness in public statements, I do believe he will comply under oath.

Senators must exercise patience, cunning, and courtesy in order to get what they want out of Neri. With the right questions, he will not disappoint. There is no need to attack Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directly; take out the men around her, and the house of lies will crumble soon enough.