Questions the Filipino people are asking
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-09-11
Columnists are often pressed to give the answers to questions that many people are asking. Somehow, people expect columnists to know more than others about what's behind the news.

The $330 million ZTE contract, which is also known as the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal, has aroused so much uproar and has raised many questions – perhaps more than what our fellow STAR columnist Jarius Bondoc could answer, given the limitations of space.

I, for one, get peppered with a lot of these questions. Every time I sit down (and threaten to wreck another chair) to start to write something on the ZTE contract, somehow new questions and new developments surface and just manage to turn present information stale.

Last Saturday, I bumped into ABS-CBN's Ricky Carandang in one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. Comparing notes briefly, Ricky and I agreed that the ZTE contract mess is a potentially bigger issue than Garci.

The issues in this ZTE contract are very clear, the violations very evident compared to the Garci Tapes where the source is inadmissible in court. In the ZTE contract, Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's role is undeniable.

In seeking to provide insights into the ZTE contract mess, I thought that it would be best if I dedicated this Chair Wrecking column to questions that people ask instead of attempting to provide answers to these questions.

After all, one of the important functions of an opinion column is to reflect publicly relevant and pressing questions. And ventilating the questions that the people are asking is one of the best ways a columnist can allow his readers to convey their views and concerns to the public officials concerned.

Foremost in people's minds regarding the ZTE contract — one of the biggest questions that people ask me — is this:

What is in it for Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in this ZTE deal that prevents her from scrapping it?

Subsequently, many are asking the following questions:

What is so important for Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in this ZTE contract that she had to leave the bedside of husband Mike at a time when Mike was fighting for his life at St. Luke's Hospital?

What is so important for Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in this ZTE contract that she even had to break protocol and allow herself to be the special witness to a contract signing event that did not even have a ZTE counterpart president around?

Why did Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo not even raise a fuss when the ZTE contract was reported to be stolen? If she can so much as leave the First Gentleman Mike at a very critical time – shouldn't she be exploding that well-known temper of hers which she had unleashed before for matters known to be relatively minor and insignificant?

If it is true, as they claim now, that the ZTE contract is a country-to-country agreement, then how come there was no high ranking minister of China around for the contract signing?

Was Romulo Neri replaced in NEDA because he would not sign the authorization that is needed to make the ZTE contract legal and binding?

Is it true that incentives for signing the ZTE contract have already been advanced — thus making it impossible to cancel it even amid glaring defects and violations?

These are the questions our people are asking. These are the questions that our youth are asking as they ponder if they still have a future in this country. These are the questions that our overseas Filipino workers are asking as they long to find jobs at home where they do not have to be separated from their loved ones. These are the questions that our businessmen are asking as they worry if this will not add to the pressure to impose new taxes. These are the questions that our laborers are asking as they desperately bargain for that pay raise that will allow them to cope with price increases.

These are the questions that Filipino housewives who can hardly make ends meet are asking. They can't fathom the enormity of the amount that Senator Panfilo Lacson claims is the inducement in the ZTE deal, especially as their lives continue to revolve on surviving their hand-to-mouth, day-to-day ordeal of bargain fish and NFA rice.

These are the questions that Filipino soldiers and junior officers are asking as they wonder how many soldiers' families could improve their standard of living with the billions of pesos that this ZTE deal will cost. Being soldiers, they will have to wonder if this will not add to the economic misery that in turn breeds more insurgency and puts their lives at risk.

Instead of trying to provide answers to our people's questions, maybe we should pose this question to Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her minions:

How much longer do you think the Filipino people will put up with these acts of impunity before they are forced to get back their country and make all of you account for your deeds?

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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