MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 3) Former socio-economic planning secretary Romulo Neri has called President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ?evil? and has shown her to be at the center of the ?ecosystem of corruption,? said the key witness of the Senate investigating the national broadband network controversy.
But in a brief text message to INQUIRER.net when sought for his response, Neri said, ?I don?t remember saying that.?
Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. told senators Monday at the resumption of the inquiry that Neri disclosed this to him, to Senators Panfilo Lacson and Ana Consuelo Madrigal, and several others at a meeting on December 7 in a bistro at the Asian Institute of Management.
Neri wanted to reveal to the Senate how corruption happened in government and who benefitted from it, Lozada said.
Lozada said he initially didn't want to reveal what happened at that meeting.
Lacson said he didn?t want to corroborate Lozada?s revelation but said that everything that the witness had said were true.
Instead, Lacson and Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile urged the witness and convinced him that there was no turning back since he had ?gone to the light.?
In that ?presentation,? which Neri said he did not want publicized, the former Cabinet secretary told the two opposition senators that ?oligarchs? like the Razons, the Aboitizes, the Alcantaras, and Lucio Tan benefitted from a corrupt government set-up, and that the military and the police protected that set-up.
Lozada, who described himself as part of the audience in that presentation, said Neri detailed the ?ecosystem of corruption? wherein the President was at the center of this ?web of corruption.? He said this was the context of Neri?s ?evil? comment of the President.
Just before the inquiry went into a 45-minute lunch break, Lozada expressed his concern for Neri?s life.
?I might be putting my friend?s life in danger [with my testimony],? he said.
Lozada thus asked the senators and the people to take into account the life of his friend Neri.
?[Neri] is in the custody of government security personnel. To those who are listening now, please assure that the life of my friend is not in danger,? he said.
Lozada said that since the President told Neri to ignore the P200-million bribe offered by resigned poll chief Benjamin Abalos, Neri had wanted to resign from government because the President ?has no moral authority over him? and even wanted to go to the Senate.
?I think he?s like me who cannot make up his mind about coming out with the truth,? Lozada said in Filipino.
Since then, Lozada said Neri had asked him and other people to raise ?patriotic money? for him when and if he would resign from government because he knew that if he would come out with his information, there would be no turning back for him.
?Ayaw niyang ipalimos ang sarili niya [He didn?t want to beg for his own benefit],? Lozada told the Senate, referring to Neri.
Lozada said the December meeting with the senators was just one of the meetings where Neri made his presentation of how corruption happened in government and who benefitted from it.
Enrile, seconding the motion of Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., proposed that the Senate take custody of Lozada and Neri for protection.