(STAR) HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - The Makati Business Club’s (MBC) Bertie Lim has taken on a prominent role in the current protest actions against the government. Bertie has excellently represented one view of the business community and is arguably an important voice of the sector calling for the ouster of President Arroyo.

Lim’s warning statements to the President are being often quoted by media, the latest of which was the ominous “This is just the beginning” remarks attributed to him in describing the crowd that attended the Interfaith rally in Makati last Friday.

Earlier, he said he favors a “withdrawal of support” by the military from the current administration. Whether or not the statement represents the view of the entire Makati business community is not clear. But that interview clearly defined Lim’s position in the current political controversies.

Lim is definitely gaining much public notice even as his statements create a lot of nervousness. We hope Lim realizes that he represents an important segment of the business community. And while there is no debate about the passion and sincerity he has concerning his oust-GMA cause, the business sector asks that he assure them that his moves have been carefully studied and that prudence continues to be the hallmark of his decisions — just the way businessmen do it.

Among the things that Lim may have to quickly clarify is his position on the succession scheme in line with his oust-GMA call. Friends say Lim appears to be averse to a possible succession by Vice President Noli de Castro, having said he has to interview De Castro first to find out whether or not the VP fits the bill.

Lim’s condescending view of the Vice President has triggered speculations that he favors either snap elections or the Transition Council which some sectors, primarily BAYAN and Akbayan, are promoting at the moment.

It may be good for Lim to already clarify this early whom he will bless just in case a snap election materializes. Or, if speculations are accurate that he leans towards a Transition Council, who he would put in place in such council. A clear enumeration of the personalities that will receive his blessings should help assuage the nervousness within the business sector that his statements has spurred.

Of course, Lim has to assure his fellow businessmen that the business sector can get its way just in case the MBC succeeds in the oust-GMA move. The aftermath of such a political adventure is definitely chaos. Lim has to make sure there is a plan for the business clique he represents to get part of the spoils of the political war.

Otherwise, his statements might be viewed as nothing more than just expressions of the emotion. This is perilous. The business community never makes decisions on the basis of emotions even if emotions are the usual driving force in the marketing of products that the business sector sells. If this be the case, then Lim might be allowing himself to be an unwitting tool in a political game where the succession plot is not clear to him.

Tainted witnesses?

At the rate it is going, the Senate hearing on the National Broadband Network (NBN) project is becoming a forum for tall tales.

Let’s start with Dante Madriaga, the latest star in what some people have branded a farcical play masquerading as an “investigation in aid of legislation.” Malacañang spokesman Ignacio Bunye is probably more accurate in branding it an “investigation in aid of grandstanding.”

Some observers say Madriaga is a witness from nowhere, a mysterious character who has told a mystery tale of intrigue and deceit, with icings of obvious truth, but containing a whole substance of lies. They note that his bearing before the Senate and the glare of the public eye through television showed his character as the man from Mars as he swaggered with braggadocio while spinning a tale that boggled the imaginations of even the most jaded senators.

The man’s background is unknown, even to those who brought him up as a witness. It is obvious that he is a man without a permanent occupation and dependable sources of income. He has been described by no less than Senator Panfilo Lacson as a “mercenary” who has asked money for his testimony.

The members of the Senate probe committee have expressed suspicions about his credibility. But why did they allow him to testify in the first place?

Another witness, Rodolfo Lozada Jr., admitted to have taken advantage of his official position as president of a government corporation, giving away land and financial privileges to his relatives. He had abused his powers as a government official and himself should be indicted for graft. He is a tainted witness. In calling him as witness, the Senate violated the axiom that “he who comes to court must come with clean hands.”

Joey de Venecia Jr., the first witness, was also a party in interest having lost his bid for the NBN project through Amsterdam Holdings.

This parade of incredulous and tainted witnesses should be enough to turn off our people and especially the senators who claim to be wise and honest legislators. But it appears that our honorable senators who back the hearing have less than honorable motives in mind.

The latest incredible performance in this circus is the claim of Senator Jamby Madrigal that First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo was provided with a letter on the NBN contract signed by then NEDA Director General Romulo Neri and addressed to the Chinese ambassador. It appears that the document was tampered with. Another tall tale backed by a dubious sheet of paper?

We should all heed the advice of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in its pastoral letter appealing to all Filipinos, particularly media and the Senate, to view this issue with honesty and impartiality, bereft of bias, prejudices and self-serving motives.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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