We are members of the faculty and students of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines. As lawyers, educators, students of the law and citizens, we applaud the courage of Mr. Jun Lozada, who has volunteered information at great risk to himself and to his family.
We also, by this collective statement, express our outrage and indignation at the official response to the recent revelations on the NBN-ZTE controversy. We call on the concerned public officers to do what is right.
Public Office is a Public Trust. This is the core principle of our republican and democratic nation. In the wake of the initial revelations of Mr. Jose De Venecia III, Chairperson Romulo Neri and the more recent revelations Engineer Jun Lozada, the silence and inaction of the President and the Ombudsman directly violate this core principle.
Under the Constitution, the Ombudsman is an independent Office—accountable to none save the people and the Constitution. It has the power to investigate on its own initiative, which power it has not effectively exercised. The current Ombudsman’s dismal failure to investigate recent exposes involving Malacanang has created a perception that she is not independent. Her recent inhibition from investigating the NBN-ZTE deal is not sufficient and does not reassure. By simply remaining in office, she still has enough influence to ensure that the current investigation goes the way of the other major investigations—nowhere.
The President’s own silence on this matter is totally unacceptable. The exposes have directly implicated her. The resources of government have been mobilized to suppress the truth—the Philippine National Police, the Aviation Security Command, and the Presidential Security Group have been implicated in detaining Jun Lozada without his consent; her former Chief of Staff and the current DENR Secretary have also been implicated; members of her official family, from the DENR Secretary, the Justice Secretary, the Press Secretary, the Cabinet Secretary have all diverted time and effort to protect her and her husband. Instead of adopting a policy of full disclosure, she has allowed her former NEDA Director General and acting CHED Chairperson to keep a selective silence—when summoned by the Senate but not by Malacanang. Her Justice Secretary has indicated that a parallel investigation will focus on the key witness rather than on the possible crimes committed by those whom Mr. Lozada has named.
We now make the following calls:
First, for those in government who have been implicated by key witnesses, as a minimum response, to take a leave of absence until the controversy is resolved.
For the President and the Ombudsman, while we have asked, at the minimum, for them to take a leave of absence, we say also: resignation is always an option.
Second, for the Department of Justice to immediately terminate its investigation which, on its face, appears irregular considering that there has been no complaint filed with the Department.
Third, for those that the Constitution has vested with mandate and jurisdiction, such as the Ombudsman’s Office and the Office of the Special Prosecutor, to charge and prosecute those responsible.
Fourth, for all UP ALUMNI, specially those who have graduated from the College of Law, to be faithful to the interests of our people. For those privileged to have power by appointment or election, to exercise their discretion wisely and not serve the whim or greed of others. For those who have knowledge of what is legally or morally wrong, to be courageous enough to step forward and allow justice to be served. Our patience has been tested during the past years.
Once again, we are faced with yet another scandal involving allegations of corruption at the highest levels of power. We choose not to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear, but to be active, vigilant and responsible in demanding accountability from our institutions. It is only in doing so that we may prevent anarchy.
Malcolm Hall. 19 February 2008.
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