Buencamino writes political commentary for and is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the Business Mirror, March 26,2008 edition, p. A10

The allegations of Romy Neri, Joey De Venecia, Jun Lozada, and Dante Madriaga about the shenanigans surrounding the ZTE-NBN deal are true. That’s why instead of disproving those allegations, the Palace chooses to discredit the whistleblowers. Shoot the messenger, as the old saying goes.

Tapped phone conversations between Benjamin Abalos and Joey De Venecia, and   between Joey De Venecia and Jun Lozada were posted on You Tube and played on radio and TV stations prior to the last Senate hearing in order to lay the groundwork for administration stalwart Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to play tapes of more tapped phone calls.

Sen. Enrile knows that possession of illegally tapped phone conversations is a criminal offense but he says, “I’m willing to face the music.”  Pure bravado. He knows he won’t be facing any music. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is tone deaf when it involves criminal activity in aid of keeping his patrona in power.

The only reason for playing those tapes is to show that Joey De Venecia and Jun Lozada are just as bad, if not worse, than the people they accuse of bribery and “game” fixing. It is the only way the Palace can respond to the bribery allegations.

The Palace is playing the old “pare-pareho lang magnanakaw silang lahat” (they are all crooks) card once again. And with good reason: it works. It turns the public off and makes them accept the canard that it’s futile to think they can improve their lives by getting rid of this administration.

Gloria Arroyo’s allies have been laying the foundation for the coming demolition job on the whistleblowers.

The CBCP pastoral letter said that we are all sinners. Cardinal Vidal of the Archdiocese of Malacanan followed that up and said of Lozada, “Why do we have to make him a hero?”

Soon after he uttered those words, there was not one priest in Cebu who would celebrate a mass for truth. Other bishops followed in Vidal’s wake and likewise allowed their priests not to celebrate masses for truth.

Meanwhile Cerge Remonde, the man who took over Mike Defensor’s job as Gloria’s valet, was allowed to brief Vidal’s priests on the “real” truth about ZTE-NBN.

The AFP applied the same double standard strategy towards truth.  It banned Lozada from their camps but allowed Gloria supporters to hold a prayer rally in Camp Aguinaldo.

The education secretary tried to ban Lozada from speaking at state-run schools.

“Shut them up, shut them out, play the tapes, and it will all go away,” that’s the shortsighted view of an administration that thinks only of how to get through the day.

The long view is to worry about the effect of playing the tapes at a Senate hearing and demonstrating to the whole world that communications in this country are not secure, that anybody with the right connections can listen in on anybody and everybody’s phone conversations.

A responsible government will ask, “How will the phone taps affect foreign investments?  Will investors want to set-up business in a country where phone taps are a dime a dozen, where company secrets discussed over the phone can be sold to competitors?”

Foreign investors know about the tapping of Garci’s phone and they probably just shrugged it off as something seasonal and contained within the political arena.

But these new taps are different. They are taps placed by one businessman, Ben Abalos, on his rival. That takes it beyond politics and into business. And that will drive investors away.

The economy stands on foreign investments and OFW remittances. Gloria Arroyo is willing to cut off one leg just so she can keep on standing.

Play the tapes and play them loud. And we will see how long Gloria can hobble on one leg.