Transcript of Senator Mar Roxas’ interview on ‘Mornings at ANC’

On the compromise between Senators and Secretary Romulo Neri after oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Tuesday:

Q: What is your reaction to Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s proposal for Neri to attend a hearing on Friday, without being asked three questions pertaining to his conversations with the President on the NBN deal?

MAR: I was there when it was proposed last night, and at about 10:00, we asked to be taken in to the justices’ chamber in order to clarify this. Senators Cayetano, Pangilinan and myself, together with Senators Pia Cayetano and Noynoy Aquino, clarified exactly what the contents of the proposal were, and to a layman, this is basically what it is: The three questions are already before the Supreme Court, Neri having invoked executive privilege. So the Supreme Court is saying: If there are other questions, we will ask these and allow Neri to answer them or not answer them, invoking the right against self-incrimination or executive privilege or whatever, and then if we disagree with those invocations,we take them back to the Supreme Court, for them to decide all these questions including the original three all at the same time. That in essence is the compromise.

In other words, the Supreme Court is saying, “Look, if you’re going to wait for us to rule on these three questions, it might take us a week, two weeks, three weeks, one month, we don’t know.” Meanwhile, no other questions are being asked.” So they said, “Why don’t you already ask all your other questions. Anyway, these three questions are already before us, you have already objected to them, they’re now before the Supreme Court, and we will rule on these three questions. Why don’t you ask all your other questions so that when we rule on these three, we will not only be ruling on these three but on all other invocations of executive privilege that Secretary Neri may do in the course of answering other questions.

We tried to contact our colleagues last night to get a consensus on the proposal, but we were unable to contact many of them because it was already 10:30 at night, so we will present it to the Senate this afternoon.

Q: But aren’t your other questions premised on the first three questions?

MAR: That is possible, but there are also a whole host of other questions that we can ask that are not related thereto or that are leading up to those three questions and the rest. We are not precluded from asking the follow-up questions once the Supreme Court rules on the three questions.

When I went home midnight last night, I sat down and reflected on it, and I thought, what are some of the questions that I will ask? Before I fell asleep at around 1:30 or 2 a.m. this morning, I was able to come up with 30 questions different from the three. So in fact, through your program, let’s ask the citizenry to ask all the questions that you want asked of Neri other than those three, and we will see how many times he invokes executive privilege, how many times he hides behind that cover, so will see whether in fact the invocation is part of a coverup or really a sincere effort to protect private conversations. I myself have 30 questions, I’m sure those listening now might come up with five, ten, 15, 20 questions.Send them all in, you can send them to me, and we will ask them.

Q: Does this mean you’re inclined to accept the compromise?

MAR: The counsel for Neri gave assurances without committing that Neri is agreeable. We in the Senate will present it to the senators this afternoon. From my point of view, as you can imagine, I find this to be a reasonable, practical way of moving forward. We will just present it to the Senate, it’s very easy, yes or no. On the face of it, I think there is basis to be confident that we will agree.

Q: Would you really need to furnish the Supreme Court all these questions? Won’t it prolong the process?

MAR: It really doesn’t. Let’s say we don’t agree to the compromise. Basically the Supreme Court takes one month, so it’s also prolonged for another month. If they rule on the three questions a month from now, when Secretary Neri once more appears, and we ask him a fourth question, he will invoke executive privilege and we will go back to the Supreme Court.

In generality the Supreme Court is saying you can not use executive privilege to cover up a crime, but they were also quite firm in saying the invocation of executive privilege is on a case-to-case basis, question to question or specific conversation to conversation basis. It can not be just “What did you talk about?” open-ended. That’s why rather than risk every question going up to the Supreme Court, on whether this is covered by proper executive privilege or not, the Supreme Court is saying “Ask all your other questions, not just the three questions but 20, 50 questions upon which Secretary Neri invoked.”

Q: How will the Senate decide this afternoon?

MAR: We will be consensus-building, but I understand we will be going into a caucus shortly after session starts. By the way, last night, we already had 12 [senators], but it was a very soft 12, because it’s very hard to convey on telephone what the parameters of the compromise were, so we decided that rather than agree based on a soft 12, let’s present it to everyone, make sure everyone agrees so that we have a firmer agreement that we can bring to the Supreme Court. Assuming that this is accepted this afternoon, and there is agreement with Secretary Neri, Friday is the scheduled appearance [of Neri].



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