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THE UNFATHOMABLE MR. ROMULO NERI

May 26, 2008

Transcript of the exchange between Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and lawyer Paul Lentejas, the latter representing former NEDA Chief Romulo Neri in the Neri’s petition to invoke executive privilege in the Senate investigation into the NBN-ZTE scandal:

Carpio: Going to the first question … whether the President followed up the NBN project, is there anything wrong if the President follows up with NEDA the status of projects in government … is there anything morally and legally wrong with that?

Lentejas: There is nothing wrong, Your Honor, because…

Carpio: That’s normal.

Lentejas: That’s normal, because the President is the Chairman of the NEDA Board, Your Honor.

Carpio: Yes, so there is nothing wrong. So why is Mr. Neri afraid to be asked this question?

Lentejas: I just cannot…

Carpio: You cannot fathom?

Lentejas: Yes, Your Honor.

Carpio: You cannot fathom. The second question, were you dictated to prioritize the ZTE [contract], is it the function of NEDA to prioritize specific contract[s] with private parties? No, yes?

Lentejas: the prioritization, Your Honor, is in the…

Carpio: Project?

Lentejas: In the procurement of financing from abroad, Your Honor.

Carpio: Yes. The NEDA will prioritize a project, housing project, NBN project, the dam project, but never a specific contract, correct?

Lentejas: Not a contract, Your Honor.

Carpio: This question that Secretary Neri is afraid to be asked by the Senate, he can easily answer this, that NEDA does not prioritize contract[s], is that correct?

Lentejas: It is the project, Your Honor.

Carpio: So why is he afraid to be asked this question?

Lentejas: I cannot, I cannot fathom, Your Honor.

Carpio: You cannot fathom also?

Lentejas: Yes, Your Honor.

Carpio: But is there anything wrong if the President will tell the NEDA Director General, you prioritize this project, is there anything legally or morally wrong with that?

Lentejas: There is nothing wrong with that, Your Honor.

Carpio: There is nothing

. It happens all the time?

Lentejas: The NEDA Board, the Chairman of the NEDA Board, yes she can.

Carpio: [S]he can always tell that?

Lentejas: Yes, Your Honor.

Carpio: Okay. Let’s go to the third question, whether the President said to go ahead and approve the project after being told about the alleged bribe. Now … it is not the NEDA Director General that approves the project, correct?

Lentejas: No, no, Your Honor.

Carpio: It is the…

Lentejas: It is the NEDA Board, Your Honor.

Carpio: The NEDA Board headed by the President.

Lentejas: Yes, Your Honor.

Carpio: So this question is not correct also … whether the President said to Secretary Neri to go ahead and approve the project? Secretary Neri does not approve the project, correct?

Lentejas: He’s just the Vice Chairman, Your Honor.

Carpio: So why is he afraid to be asked this question?

Lentejas: I cannot tell you, Your Honor.

Carpio: You cannot fathom also.

Lentejas: Yes, Your Honor.

Copy-pasted from GOTCHA by Jarius Bondoc

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