February 14, 2008 statement by Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy-University of the Philippines
Adopted by the University Council of the University of the Philippines Diliman, 27 February 2008
While scandal after scandal has once again been piling up on Malacanang’s doorstep, former NEDA Director General Romulo Neri’s service as Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) has quietly been extended by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo another six months until August 2008.
Last week, Malacanang did everything in its power to help both Neri and ex-NEDA consultant Engr. Rodolfo Lozada, Jr. to evade the Senate arrest warrants which were issued against them for having snubbed a scheduled Senate hearing on the tainted National Broadband Network-Zhong Xing Telecom Equipment (NBN-ZTE) deal. While Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo’s “good boy” Neri flaunted his success at “hiding out” until he secured a TRO from the Supreme Court, Lozada, though kidnapped and intimidated, chose to follow the dictates of his own conscience and come clean on the NBN-ZTE scandal.
During his Senate testimony, Lozada repeatedly aired his respect for Neri but he also candidly and very honestly gave out damning details on how Neri purportedly conducted his work at NEDA. Most interesting of all was Neri’s explicit directive to avoid implicating the “First Gentleman” (and therefore Malacanang) in the scandal and his instruction to Lozada, not simply to work within the law, but to “moderate the greed” of Abalos and the First Gentleman. Lozada will find out soon enough, what kind of a person Neri is when the latter saves his own skin and leaves him hanging alone. One will recall the convenient excuse called “Executive Privilege” which Neri ceaselessly invoked the last time he appeared in the Senate in order to avoid having to lie about details of Malacanang’s involvement in the NBN deal.
Neri may perhaps be seen as a striking example of a cowardly bureaucrat who cannot stand up for the truth when faced with the “dark side of the state,” but, in truth, he has become much more than that. He has also become both a functionary and a beneficiary of a hopelessly corrupt system. That he went to such great lengths to evade the truth in order to protect his patrons implicates him directly in the latter’s crimes. Due to Lozada’s testimony, the word “Commission” in “Commission on Higher Education” now takes on a more insidious meaning.
Neri has lost whatever trace of credibility he may have previously had as a career official. We recall that in keeping with Malacanang’s skewed notion of “grassroots consultation,” he convened the Education Summit which excluded the participation of representative organizations of teachers and students and instead saw them violently dispersed by the police from the premises of the Summit.
Neri not only lacks the minimum formal requirement for his current position as Chairman of the CHEd (not being a PhD holder), he is now also deficient in the most important qualification. He has lost all moral high ground required of a person entrusted with reviving the country’s decaying higher education system.
Furthermore, as UP faculty, we cannot accept that Neri, as head of CHEd, continues to chair the UP Board of Regents, the highest policy-making body of the University of the Philippines.
We therefore demand Romulo Neri’s immediate resignation as Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd)!