After the Supreme Court Decision, What Comes Next?

Many are alarmed that in a 9-6 decision of the Supreme Court in favor of Neri’s petition, the ZTE broadband scam investigation shall come to an end without closure. Further many believe that public officials are now emboldened to corrupt the government. As one writer puts it, the SC decision is so depressing and “nauseating.”

On his part, Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno was dismayed with the  majority decision of the Supreme Court finding President Arroyo’s conversation with the then Socio- economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri  as classified information.

The three questions that Neri refused to answer in the Senate were covered by executive privilege.1) whether the President followed up the NBN-ZTE project with Neri; 2) whether Neri was dictated by the President to prioritize the NBN-ZTE project; and 3) whether he was told by the President to go ahead with the project after being told of the alleged bribe offer.”

However in his 120-page dissenting opinion, “Puno said that ‘these questions are pertinent to the subject matter of their investigation, and there is no effective substitute for the information coming from a reply to these questions.” He said the three questions were not covered by executive privilege since the Senate needs the answers to these questions so that it can enact laws to remedy flaws in the government’s procurement system.

Encouraging Corruption

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, finds the SC decision could “boost the confidence of high government officials into corrupting the government.”

“If you’re undersecretaries and the Senate invited you because you took big amounts of money, you will run to the Supreme Court. You will be confident that the executive can get away with everything,” he said in an interview with DZMM radio.

The same sentiments is also shared by some members of the Lower House as this will only lead to more corruption in the government  “Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, for his part, said the decision has given President Arroyo powers similar to a mafia boss.” 

“Casiño said Mrs. Arroyo has become an “untouchable” and could very well commit crimes without being punished.”

UP Protest Action

“Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) chair Romulo Neri was greeted by a protest action at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Thursday when he arrived for a meeting of the university’s Board of Regents.” As soon as he alighted from his vehicle for the meeting he was greeted by protesters. He remained calm and even smiling as protesters gathered around as reported by Nina Corpuz of ABS-CBN news.

“They upheld the rule of law and respect for human rights. That’s all I can say,” Neri said. Last Thursday was the first time he spoke to the media after the Supreme Court decided in favor of his petition.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who was also in UP for the board meeting, being a member of the Board of Regents, said “he will try to convince Neri to tell what he knows.” However, after the meeting Cayetano said he had no chance to talk to Neri about it.

“Cayetano is the chairman of the Blue ribbon Committee, the Senate’s lead committee in the probe on the allegations of overpricing and bribery in the national broadband deal between the government and China’s ZTE Corp.”

Senator Cayetano did not say he calls again for another hearing on the ZTE broadband issue in the Senate. The senator however said that “they are going to discuss the guidelines for questioning Senate witnesses that is being asked of them.”

Neri’s lawyers, on the other hand said that “only time can tell” if Neri would still attend Senate hearings if he is called to testify.”

Constitutional Crisis

As expected, the Senators will challenge the decision of the highest tribunal of the land. This, they said, will lead to constitutional crisis. Political opposition and civil society groups are again into protest rallies to what they perceived as coercion of the executive to the judiciary.

“I hope a constitutional crisis can be avoided. If SC reconsiders… maybe SC needs more time,” said Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco.

People’s Action

People who are opposed to the administration of president Arroyo find the SC decision as prelude to more corruption in the government. Supreme Court justices who voted yes are heavily berated of their actions. Some express total lost of confidence on all systems of the government. Others cease to believe that president Arroyo will step down on 2010. Against all these rumblings and political noise, do we see massive protest actions again?  Or to be frank about it is People Power at the offing?

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