BACK IN May, speculations were rife that Romulo L. Neri was returning to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) as director general and socioeconomic planning secretary by August. The nasty rumor had so distressed some at NEDA that on a bulletin board next to the ground floor elevator lobby that had been turned into a sort of freedom wall was posted this note from an anonymous commenter:
“I don’t think bringing back Neri to NEDA will be good for the agency. We are now finding out that he maintained a group of advisers/consultants in the likes of Jun Lozada who seemed to act as fixers/moderators of greed. Imagine that! Neri seemed to be running another office corresponding with NEDA staffs whose sole purpose was to take charge of the wheeling and dealing in government. Shall we allow that again?”
THREE QUESTIONS would be left unanswered should the Supreme Court refuse to budge on its March 25, 2008 ruling in the Neri v. Senate Committee case. Equally — if not more — important, however, is the final decision’s bearing on how the executive and the court would hence be dealing with questions involving presidential communications in Congressional inquiries. This is why transparency and accountability advocates are hoping that the Supreme Court will reconsider and allow the Senate to compel disclosure over the claim of executive privilege.
THIS NO one questions: The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of their respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation. They may also request the heads of departments to appear before them and be heard on any matter pertaining to their departments.
FOREIGN AID inflows to the Philippines are soaring to their highest levels in about six years, but the availability of more money for government projects has not made life any easier for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Filipino taxpayers.
Indeed, the latest controversy to rock her seven-year reign stems from the sharp surge in official development assistance (ODA) from China, an emerging economic behemoth, and the Philippines’s growing inability to impose its procurement policies and procedures on ODA projects.
HE IS known by many Filipinos as the author of that economics textbook with the blue cover, but once upon a time Gerardo P. Sicat was the head of a powerful government agency that took care of preparing and coordinating the country’s socioeconomic and development plans. In fact, back then, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) was very powerful, particularly given its oversight function with respect to the plans of government agencies. Though by protocol, the NEDA director general was not a member of the Cabinet, the position was of Cabinet rank and the NEDA chief was even regarded as a primus inter pares (first among equals).