AER Joins Thousands at Makati Rally

{mosimage} More than 10,000 people crammed the intersection of Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue on February 15, 2008 in protest against the corruption under the Arroyo administration.  The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported: “In the loudest display yet of public outrage over the controversial $329-million broadband deal, thousands of protesters yesterday demanded the resignation of President Macapagal Arroyo.”

A week before, the controversy on the National Broadband Network [NBN] project was ignited further with the statement of Rodolfo Lozada Jr., a government consultant on the project, on how the project cost was bloated to accommodate kickbacks for government officials. Former NEDA Secretary Neri, who as NEDA head was in charge of the review of the contract, earlier tagged COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos as the backer of the project who offered him P200 million as bribe to get the project approved. Lozada collaborated this and said that part of the excess cost was supposed to go to Abalos.

{mosimage}AER observed that the culpability does not end with Abalos but goes up to the highest position in the land. “The plunder exemplified by the ZTE-NBN deal goes all the way up to GMA. In the testimony of Joey de Venecia, GMA’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, was a central figure in securing the kickback.  The candid, credible, and detailed testimony of Jun Lozada, in relation to his abduction and the overpricing of the ZTE-NBN contract, points to Malacañang as the culprit.  It is crystal clear that the buck does not stop at Mike Arroyo. His influence is crucial not because of his own accord, but of whom he represents: the exercise of the power and prerogatives of the highest executive of the land.”

In view of these facts, AER believed there was already a moral certainty to call for the President’s resignation “With GMA’s repeated betrayal of the public trust, she has no right to sit as President a minute longer,” read an AER statement. It was fitting that AER officers, fellows and staff joined other members of the citizenry in Makati in their vigorous call for reform and change in government.

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