Neri, a respected economist, has become a thorn in the side of senators because of his reluctance to testify about what Arroyo knew about the deal.
The Senate can also summon Neri, but only to answer questions other than the three, which are the same ones contained in a compromise the high court suggested after Neri filed his petition against an arrest order issued against him by the Senate after he refused to attend any more hearings of the inquiry into the cancelled NBN contract between the government and China’s ZTE Corp.
The questions are: “Did the President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) follow up with you on the ZTE contract? Did she tell you to prioritize the ZTE contract? Despite knowing the flaws of the contract did she tell you to approve it?”
Neri, in his petition and supplemental petition, said his absence from the November 20, 2007 hearing of the Senate inquiry, for which an order for his arrest was issued, was duly answered by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who invoked executive privilege for the then socioeconomic planning secretary “by order of the president.”
Neri said Malacañang was concerned about “the impact of the bribery scandal involving high government officials on the country’s diplomatic relations and economic and military affairs, and the possible loss of confidence of foreign investors and lenders in the Philippines.”
Neri had earlier appeared before the Senate to say former Commission on Elections commissioner Benjamin Abalos Sr. had allegedly offered him a bribe to endorse the NBN project, which was awarded to China’s ZTE Corp. for $329-million.
Neri told the Senate that he told President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about the bribe offer but refused to say what happened next.
According to other witness testimonies, Neri told friends in private that Arroyo asked him not to accept the bribe but to endorse the deal anyway. Neri has denied that she ordered him to have the deal approved.
The contract was cancelled by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo soon after the Senate opened its inquiry into allegations the deal was tainted by kickbacks and overpricing, to which her husband, Jose Miguel, was also implicated.