I went to this forum hoping to feel something, to take away something - a renewed fervour. I took away something alright - the feeling that forums like these were meant to provide comfort and hope for discomforting and hopeless times.
There weren't a lot of people in the library. The lady at the reception desk welcomed us without much ado. Me and Butch were obviously nobody important - just concerned citizens who bothered to show up.
10.00 Invocation. National Anthem. Panatang Makabayan.
Like a dutiful agnostic (now I wear the badge with more confidence), I stood up in respect of those who believed. The national anthem was something else though - I hadn't seen the Philippine flag for a while. I was reminded of this romance I have for this country. My repository of hope, the vessel in which I project all of my hopes and dreams. The remnants of the modernist in me - of images of the good life realised in national borders - were rekindled for a moment. I almost cried as I sang the words dutifully. I was surprised I still rememberd the words to the pledge of allegiance (Panatang Makabayan). The decades of reciting it in grade school and high school paid off. Those early morning flag ceremonies, my brain still half-dead from sleep, proved helpful.
10:10 Enteng Romano, opening statement
I do not know Enteng Romano from Adam, but he wore on his shoulders both credibility and steadfast honesty. You know its true that evil marks faces of those who lay in bed with it. Look at all our politicians, even the young ones. Don't they look like they could all use a year-pass at a derm clinic? To erase the worry-lines of those who need to tamp down their conscience. Romano's opening statement merely summarised what had already broken in the news - that there is new evidence of the President's intimate knowledge of the ZTE-NBN deal.
10:15 Vice Governor of Iloilo - Rolex Suplico
VG Suplico then took the mic, speaking of the witness 'Alex'. Apparently the latter leaked to the media the photos we all saw emblazoned on the news - photos of the President and the First Gentleman playing golf with ZTE officials. They named these two as "Romantic Rose" (a lady wearing a pink top) and "Yellow shirt" (a man wearing such an item of clothing).
They then showed more of these photos taken by Alex. Golf Cart no. 25.
10:25. Question from the audience - "Why did this so-called witness only come out now?"
Suplico responded saying Alex needed convincing. Journalist Jarius Bondoc then said witnesses do not usually come out at the same time. To my mind, this "Alex" probably wanted to wait and see what happened with then star witness Jun Lozada.
10:35. Joey De Venecia said he got a call from his father that they played gold in Shenzhen. It was in the coaster, that the President (speaking with Abalos), mentioned "kung pwedeng gayahin yung proposal in Joey para walang cost sa government." "Dapat si Peter Favila ang nandoon, because this is a trade deal." (Instead of Abalos)
Enteng Romano: "Baka di nago-golf si Peter Favila kaya 'di sya ang nandoon" (Smattering of laughter).
Joey DV - "I could safely surmise that the President already knew about this transaction....by the second, and definitely the third quarter..." [of last year]
Joey DV: Abalos - wanted a P130 million kickback.
Enteng Romano: "Medyo malakas ang ugong na ang dad mo raw ay maraming nalalaman dito." He might be the witness Joe mentioned by Sen. Lacson. When will your father stop calling GMA "my President"? Is he coming out as a new witness?
Joey: "I'm not too sure frankly whether he does know, because he was never really part of the discussion...If my father was part of the meeting...wherever the meeting was...I don't know if he was privy to these discusions."
Enteng Romano: JDV was present during the lunch.
Joey: I'm sure my father is weighing his options, this [concerns his whole political career]
Joey: Sa transaction, Abalos was the 'captain ball' but the First Gentleman was the 'coach.'
10:50 Dante Mendoza: ZTE official: "No president, no money."
Joey: Abalos was telling the ZTE group that he was "the most powerful person in the country" as Comelec chair.
11:00. Romano asks Joey if he knows the 2 ZTE officials in the photo (in pink and yellow). Joey denies knowing them.
ER: San pupunat ang senate hearing? We can't file a case against her. Impeachment, she has the numbers.
VG Suplico: "...the President is untouchable while she is President."
ER: Our only choice is to go after those people around the President - Abalos, FG for example.
ER: Did you know this would come this far?
Jarius Bondoc: May alingasngas na since Jan 2007.
Dante: Same problem Alex will experience... "Before I even came out, sinisiraan na'ko". [Negative publicity launched by Malacanang.]
Audience: "What would you like the people to do...What can I do about this?"
Dante: 'Di ko alam' [sagutin ang tanong mo]. "I did my part, I don't know what other people can do."
11:10. Senator Franklin Drilon: "These are all circumstantial evicences...The people can pressure the Supreme Court."
Joey: No Chinese government official during the signing of the contract. Only ZTE officials and Usec Formoso were witnesses based on the documents.
Drilon: "All of this is circumstantial evidence...which is valid as evidence on [establishing the guilt of a person]."
Audience: "Rebolusyon, civil disobedience...on your own organisation, maybe double time na. [Para] may mangyari..."
At this point there was a smattering of laughter and an exchange of tired and wary glances. I only saw that the lady who stood and spoke was middle-aged. Probably a concerned lola. Definitely someone who lived through Martial Law. Someone, who despite all her decades of living in this country, still had in her hope. Revolution. Don't we pin so much hope on this word? I wonder if we really know what a revolution is. What it entails. The details. When this lady stood up to say this, I wonder if it was clear to her what it meant.
11:25. Romano announces Jun Lozada is on the way from another engagement in QC.
Drilon: "If there is no guarantee of repayment, there is no borrowing." The solution is not so much removing the debt cap but following the law. ZTE is a supply agreement. Congress can't scrutinise the details. Immediately included in the budget...There's no bidding, no appropriation by Congress, because the money never go to the Phil. treasury, it is booked as an obligation upon delivery of the supplies. The supplies are made, obligation and we paid. The appropriation part was skipped. "Unprogrammed."
ER: With the resources of govt, malamang na-identify na kung sino si ALEX at "ginagapang na rin sya". Meron pa ba'ng more explosive evidence other than the picture?
Suplico: As of last night I have lost contact with Alex. "Maybe by this time they have already identify him...I don't blame him, his priority is to survive..."
Audience: "Is it true tinanggal na ang funds for security protection ng senate witnesses?"
Joey: I'm not under protection
Dante: kumonti nga
JB: Mas marami pa kaysa kay Jun/Dante...dozens. There is really an attempt to silence whistle blowers...
11.40 Jun Lozada arrives. Accompanied by a Nun.
Audience: Of the numerous scandals and corruption allegations, why do we only concentrate on the ZTE-NBN deal?
ER: ZTE-NBN is the only scandal that demonstrates the extent of greed of government, and the implication of the highest public official in the land.
ER: (Question addressed to Jun Lozada) How do you make people begin to act on the truth that they know?
JUN: "One thing I've learned is 'manampalataya.' Filipinos should have faith in God and themselves. The worse effect of corruption is stealing the HOPE of the people...Ninakaw na ang basic services ninyo, wag na pati yung dangal at pag-asa ninyo ipananakaw nyo pa."
11.50. Gloria Diaz: had dinner with Romy Neri. Why have you not come out to tell the truth? Neri said he didn't know anythign, has no evidence. He did his part by saying he was bribed.
"He really is enjoying everything now" (Neri). Has no plans to go back to the Senate...because of the way he was treated.
ER: Are you enjoying where you are now (to Jun). Smattering of laughter.
Jun: I would like to have my life back. They scrapped the budget for protection to scare him. 10 armed men attacked St. Scholastica Marikina (Di nadiaryo). Sister Maryjohn is so visible (scare tactics).
"Sige...'todo na rin natin."
12:00. Audience (Mely): Statement of NEDA employees (Forwarded by Solita Monsod....from BNW egroup) "It is time for NEDA to confront the blows to its credibility...For months now we have been complying with the gag order...Top management has chosen to keep silent and inactive...
1. Disclosure of pertinent NEDA docus on NBN
2. Provide moral pressure towards top management to act incisively on actions [harassing] employees
3. NEDA's independence. Top management should pursue a truly independent NEDA.
Journalist from RPN 9: To Jun Lozada, what would you tell Alex?
Jun: "Alex, kung nasan ka man, halika umupo ka na rito...although sa RPN 9 mo makikita ito."
"Alex you have to find a spiritual adviser...You have to dig deep within your faith...Matakot ka sa Diyos wag sa tao."(Asked about the messianic tag people place on him)
Jun: "Ayokong maginag Bayani, kasi ang bayani mag-isa lang. Gusto ko kasama n'yo ko."
12:10 Enteng Romano. Closing statement
"Ang Pilipinas ngayong parang palakang nilagay sa kaldero...tapos unti-unti pinainitan...Di nararamdaman na unti-unting naluluto...Ano ba ang pwedeng gawin ng ordinaryong Pilipino? Ang maganda siguro, pakuluin nating ng mas mabilis ang kaldero...tiyak mararamdan ng palaka at tumalon sya. Wag po tayong bibitiw."
I couldn't liveblog the press conference. But I'm still in Makati, stealing bandwidth from somewhere along C. Palanca. Still have to edit my transcription of the proceedings. In the meanwhile, here are some photos.
As of last night, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico is no longer in contact with the latest ZTE-NBN scandal witness, "Alex." Alex is the same 'probinsyano' who leaked the photos of the President and the First Gentleman playing golf (among other things) with ZTE officials "Romantic Rose" and the Man in the Yellow shirt.
Apparently, "No President, No Money."