MANILA, MARCH 14, 2008 (STAR) By Rainier Allan Ronda - A group of former government executives said President Arroyo is “at the center” of anomalies and cover-up involving administration officials and that her failure to carry out reforms within seven days as set by the group has shattered her moral authority to govern.

“We conclude that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo refuses to serve the people’s demand for truth about a matter of great public interest. We see in this refusal, despite ample chances and many sound reasons, a clear basis for our people to find her complicit with and in fact at the center of the corruption and cover-up of the NBN-ZTE deal,” a statement of the Former Senior Government Officials or FSGO said.

The group earlier called on Mrs. Arroyo to show her sincerity in fighting corruption by implementing a set of reforms including ordering the suspension of officials implicated in the national broadband network (NBN) controversy.

The officials that FSGO wants suspended are Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III, and Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri.

“We express our loss of confidence in her. As a consequence, we question not only her moral authority to govern, but also her ability to govern given the mounting garbage of lies and obfuscation that she is constrained to build to cover up the increasing stench of corruption in her administration,” FOSG said.

“For our part, we pledge to use our combined knowledge, capabilities and influence to help as many of our people understand the issues and explain the known facts surrounding the many instances of corruption and encourage them to act in accordance with the dictates of their conscience,” the FSGO statement read by former Civil Service Commission chair Karina Constantino-David at the Club Filipino said.

“We shall work with other sectors to put forward and apply other measures to make our other democratic institutions work better in preventing, exposing and punishing corruption at any level of our government starting at the very top,” FSGO said.

“We ask those directly appointed by the President if they believe, in their heart of hearts, that they are keeping faith with their signed oath to defend and protect the nation’s Constitution and its laws in the face of blatant, shameless corruption and violation of individual rights,” it added.

“We ask those in the civil service and foreign service to examine their conscience to discern if their continued service in this administration is not in fact helping prop up a regime that, at best, abets large-scale corruption, lies, and cover-up, and at worst, is a party to them,” it pointed out.

“We believe the Supreme Court or the Senate must do their respective duties to serve the truth, but the President has a greater obligation,” FSGO said.

“She has the greatest stake in the Senate investigation coming out with the truth, or the people will conclude she hides behind lies and uses the power of her office to smother the truth,” FSGO stressed.

Rumor monger

Malacañang called FSGO “rumor mongers” and that its allegations against the President were “irresponsible and sweeping” and not based on proof.

“The statement of the ‘ex-men’ is irresponsible and sweeping. It is easy to point a finger but where is the proof?” Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said.

She said that as former Cabinet members, FSGO should have been more responsible in their statements.

“From respected government officials, now they have simply become rumor mongers. What a sad turn of events,” she said.

She added that the FSGO is barking up the wrong tree as it should be focusing its efforts on the Senate which is investigating the NBN-ZTE deal controversy.

Fajardo noted that the Senate should just have accepted the solution offered by Chief Justice Reynato Puno on the issue of executive privilege raised by Neri.

“Unfortunately the Senate has taken a stonewalling stance and refused to heed the proposal of the SC,” she said.

Fajardo pointed out that Neri would have appeared before the Senate to testify had the Puno proposal been accepted.

“The President has rescinded Executive Order 464 and Memorandum Circular 108 and it was refused. The ball is in the hands of the Senate and the ex-men should ask the Senate to play ball,” she said.

“We only wonder why they insist on making it appear that the President has not done her share in the search for truth,” she added. — With Non Alquitran and Marvin Sy

GMA off to HK end of March By Marichu Villanueva Thursday, March 13, 2008

President Arroyo is scheduled to leave for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) at the end of the month on yet another speaking engagement before an international forum.

The President is one of the keynote speakers in the 11th Asian Investment Conference (AIC) which is annually organized and sponsored by Credit Suisse.

While there, Mrs. Arroyo has also accepted the invitation of HKSAR chief executive Donald Tsang for an official visit.

Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., concurrent chief of protocol and presidential assistant for foreign travels, disclosed to The STAR that Mrs. Arroyo’s scheduled trip to Hong Kong would be a short one because she would be out of the country for two days at most.

Paynor said the President agreed to extend her stay in Hong Kong by one day to accommodate the invitation of the HKSAR chief executive to make an official visit.

“Because the President has been going to Hong Kong on stopover trips only, the HKSAR has asked her to make an official visit,” Paynor pointed out.

Mrs. Arroyo is the “sovereign keynote” speaker in the AIC luncheon meeting to be held at the main ballroom of the Conrad International in Hong Kong on March 31. The four-day conference expects more than 250 companies from Asia, including Australia and Japan, to participate in this annual gathering. For investors in Asian companies, Credit Suisse’s Asian Investment Conference has established itself as the most important event on the regional investment calendar.

But this early, anti-Arroyo groups have vowed to hound her even in Hong Kong to dramatize their calls for her resignation. In a statement on Tuesday, Gloria Step Down Movement–HK (GSM-HK) spokesperson Eman Villanueva urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) not to attend any activity involving the President’s visit.

“There is no warm welcome waiting in Hong Kong for a plunderer and a liar,” Villanueva said.

The militant OFWs group in Hong Kong obviously referred to the current scandal involving the alleged overpricing and kickbacks that went into the $329-million national broadband network (NBN) project awarded to ZTE Corp. of China in which the President and her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, were implicated along with several other government officials and private sector individuals.

GSM-HK is a network of 86 Filipino organizations from various provinces, alliances and church fellowships, including United Filipinos in Hong Kong, Bayan-HK, Bangon Pilipinas Movement-HK, and Gabriela Women’s Party-HK.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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