Roxas assails Neri invocation of executive privilege before SC

Senator Mar Roxas assailed former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri’s invocation of executive privilege before the Supreme Court relative to the National Broadband Network (NBN) controversy, as he joined colleagues Alan Peter Cayetano and Rodolfo Biazon in asking the tribunal to lift the status quo order preventing the Senate from effecting an arrest order against Neri.

Senator Mar Roxas, co-chair of the Senate joint panel investigating the NBN project, said “Secretary Neri’s insistence on executive privilege stonewalls the people’s efforts to arrive at the truth.”

He noted that the issue of executive privilege had already been settled by the Supreme Court in the case of Executive Order 464, which was used by administration officials to try to avoid Senate probes two years ago.

We maintain that the conversations between the President and Secretary Neri on kickbacks from the NBN, which he had only partially revealed to the Senate, are not part of policymaking covered by executive privilege, as they involve criminal allegations. In addition, the executive can not claim any issue of national security or diplomatic relations, as the NBN is a public concern – all P15 billion in taxpayers’ money of it,” Roxas said.

Speaking through Senate Legal Counsel David Yap and counsels Pacifico Agabin, Jose Anselmo Cadiz and Carlos Medina, Jr., the Senators said that Neri’s erroneous invocation of executive privilege has prevented the joint committees from accessing information needed to comprehensively evaluate the NBN controversy and to craft the necessary remedial legislation to prevent similar anomalies from happening.

They added: “Petitioner has repeatedly and erroneously invoked the executive privilege and by doing so, has unduly and directly interfered with, and obstructed the valid exercise of the powers and functions of herein Respondents as Senators of the Republic. Respondents are therefore left with no other recourse than to exercise the power to cite Petitioner in contempt.”

Without the testimony of Petitioner, Respondent Committees are effectively denied of their right to access to any kinds of useful information and consequently, their right to intelligently craft and propose laws to remedy what is called ‘dysfunctional procurement system of the government’,” they stressed.

It is fervently hoped by Respondents that, in the end, this Honorable Court, in the exercise of its wisdom, will see through this blatant attempt on the part of the Chief Executive to brush aside the Constitutionally-mandated principles of public accountability and right to information,” they added.

The Liberal Party President, along with fellow LP stalwart Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, had filed a separate petition last October seeking clarification on executive privilege, after the NEDA’s refusal to provide minutes of a meeting on the NBN that would shed light on the terminated contract, which was changed from a build-operate-transfer (BOT) to a taxpayer-funded project in March 2007.

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