I understand why Neri couldn’t talk
By JARIUS BONDOC
The Philippine Star, 10/01/07
I called Romy Neri right after testifying Sept. 18 in that first Senate hearing on the ZTE scam. It was our tenth talk about the issue since Apr. 20, when The STAR ran my first of a series of articles. I pried why he didn’t show up, if he was under any threat of harm, and when he’ll reveal all he knows. From his replies it was clear he was charily weighing the consequences. There’s a time and place for everything, he mused, then asked if what he has narrated to me thus far would "incite another EDSA." I said I didn’t know, but that I do wish the Senate inquiry would spark a wave of reforms, starting with clean elections. He shared the dream, but doubted if it would come true soon. Our talk eventually led to sacrificing for the sake of the nation. He said Joey de Venecia was brave to implicate big names, adding that if push comes to shove the young whistleblower fortunately has a rich dad to fall back on. "I’m not affluent," Romy stated the obvious. Neither am I, I reminded him. Whereupon, he shot back: "Oh, but you’re a journalist, you’re supposed to be dedicated to the truth."
Yes, in this calling our first instinct is to truth and justice, at all costs. So with Romy’s words in mind I must disclose what he has told me. I know I might get him and myself into deep trouble with powerful persons. But that is journalism. Too, in my hierarchy of values, God is first, country next, family and friends third, and myself bottom. Patriotic duty calls.
Romy bared many frightening things when he called me morning of Apr. 20. I had written that the government was rushing to award the ZTE contract the next day in Boao, China, and that the NEDA, which he headed then, had approved the overpriced telecoms supply in a huff. Before I could ask anything, Romy blurted three items in succession: "This deal was the handiwork of Ricky Razon and Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos ... I warned President Arroyo about this, and also told Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. ... Abalos tried to bribe me P200 million."
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