Nov. 30, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel,
Jr. (PDP-Laban) has questioned anew the qualifications
of Romulo Neri to chair the Commission on Higher
Education (CHED) in the face of his apparent efforts
to evade questions by the senators about the national
broadband network-ZTE scandal.

Pimentel was infuriated over Neris non-appearance at
the Senate Wednesday evening when the proposed budget
of the CHED was scheduled to be taken up on the floor.

I take offense at bureaucrats who seem to believe
that because they are close to the powers-that-be,
they can ignore the legislature even in the
performance of our duties, he said upon being
informed by Sen. Edgardo Angara, chairman of a finance
subcommittee, that Neri was on an official trip to
South Korea.

Due to Neris absence, the deliberation on the CHED
budget was postponed. But Pimentel said the CHED
chairman will have to come here and face the music.

Pimentel said he was told that Neri is not qualified
to chair the CHED because he does not have a doctorate
degree in education, which is a prerequisite for
anyone to be appointed chairman or commissioner of the

Appointees to the CHED are also required to have a
10-year teaching experience.

Why is it that Mr. Neri has been named as head of
CHED when he falls short of qualifications for the
position? This is in defiance of the rule of law,
Pimentel said.

The minority leader sarcastically remarked that Neri
travelled to South Korea perhaps to be awarded an
honorary doctorate degree from one of the universities

He could not come back from South Korea and say he is
now qualified. That degree must be earned, Pimentel

In line with our functions, maybe we should
communicate that matter to President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo that it is not good for her
administration to be perceived as one that ignores the
requirements of the law which are very specific.

A former director general of the National Economic and
Development Authority, Neri was named acting CHED
chairman last August after he revealed that former
Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos
dangled a P200 million bribe to him in exchange for
his favorable endorsement of the $329 million
broadband project proposal of Chinas ZTE.

But after testifying before the Senate on Sept. 26,
Neri has defied repeated Senate summons for him to
return to the witness stand. Members of the Blue
Ribbon Committee wanted to grill him on the extent of
the Presidents involvement in the approval of the
NBN-ZTE contract but Neri refused to talk further by
invoking executive privilege.

This prompted the Blue Ribbon Committee to ask Neri to
show cause why he should not be cited for contempt and
face possible arrest.

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