Benjamin Abalos, the powerful chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) who was implicated in the National Broadband Network (NBN), resigned from his post on Monday.
Just last week at the Senate, former socio-economic planning secretary and now Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri accused Abalos of trying to bribe him into favoring Chinese firm ZTE in the construction of a US$329-million NBN for the Philippines. Neri told the senators that he heard Abalos tell him during a golf game, amid chats about the NBN: ” Sec, may 200 ka dito” (Secretary, you have 200 here). Neri told senators that Abalos clearly meant 200 million pesos. Comelec spokesman and blogger James Jimenez posts Abalos's resignation statement and capped it with a question/remark asked of him minutes after his now-former boss made the announcement on national television:
Can you say ‘surprise move?’
The immediate reactions of journalists, at least those I saw reporting on ANC, was that of shock.
Manolo said it was a welcome development that should be accepted by those crying for Abalos's head eversince:
For those calling for his resignation for ages now, don’t hit a man when he’s down. He resigned to save his ass, but he still resigned. Give him credit for that. Now, on to the harder part, hauling him off to court. Credit is due for resigning but that’s as far as credit goes. In a country where too few resign despite the public clamor to do so, he did it; but he also did it, to avoid what could have been an historic impeachment. So a historic trial necessarily comes next.
Perhaps one of the many who wanted to Abalos to resign is My name is Daaaviiiiid…who shares that:
Personally it’s been something I’ve been hoping he’d do for a long time. If you check him out online as much as you could, it won’t be surprising if you’ll find a lot of…questionable acts he appears to have committed.
While we're taking on corruption, philiblogs.com asks a relevant question:
Abalos also claimed he would continue the crusade to clear his name and reputation. How noble! But who’s going to clear the name and reputation of the Philippines that by now has firmed up its reputation as a corrupt nation after this scandal?
Another blogger, Ideological Soup, did not mince words in a really scathing reaction to Abalos's resignation statement:
I was extremely bowled over by Abalos's resignation statement, more so when he mentioned the words “to clear my name and reputation.” His crusade to clear his already tainted name by his own wrongdoings is something beyond imagination. History will not be so kind to those who try to distort it. And reputation, this is something that you can't buy, something that you can't pay for, even if you bribe somebody for 200 million or 200 billion to grant you good reputation.
Even Comelec employees reportedly went wild with glee over their chief's resignation.
Oragon is skeptical. Apart from listing three implications of Abalos's action, Oragon says:
[T]he resignation may be viewed as a combination of legal strategy and political maneuver. The first would seek to provide a breathing space for Abalos, the latter would put a breathing space for political leaders implicated in the scandal.
Abalos's resignation effectively stopped the efforts in the House of Representatives to impeach Abalos or, in other words, hold him politically liable, for his role in the NBN-ZTE scam.
christabel is cynical. Hear her speak on the event as sandwiched between thoughts on college basketball and showbiz :
Like some Filipinos, I don't know what to believe anymore. I'm still waiting for further events and I just pray one thing, for the truth to be set out and for corruption to end but just some time ago, the Philippines was named as one of the most corrupt countries in the world today. It's very disappointing.
The team blog of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism thus smells a rat and dubbed Abalos's act as no different from Richard Nixon's.
In Cradle of the Brave, journalist Reeza Singzon shares her conversation with a jurist:
In a conversation this afternoon with the mild-mannered and soft-spoken retired Court of Appeals Justice Santiago Javier Ranada, I brought up the subject and said “Well, now that he is no longer an impeachable official, he just untimely opened himself up to criminal prosecution.”
Justice Ranada said, “That may be true, but remember that resignation does not mean admission of guilt.”
Reeza also issues this warning:
Abalos’ persecutors still have a long way to go if they want his head on a platter. Abalos may yet turn out to be greatest strategist in all this, knowing full well that by rendering impeachment moot, any alleged wrongdoing on his part will have to be proved the hard way— beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal case before a fair and impartial court of justice— instead of the highly political and biased impeachment process.
Such cynical view is perhaps shared by many, considering the government's track record. As I have previously pointed out, the Ombudsman may again fail the public's expectation that criminal charges be pressed against Abalos immediately after he relinquishes his post, if we base it on what the agency has done regarding an earlier scandal that rocked the Commission on Elections which Abalos headed.
For AWBHoldings, Abalos has become a lead nominee for his Wall of Shame this year.
The Senate is expected to continue its inquiries, until the whole truth is laid bare. First Gentleman Mike Arroyo may be summoned by the chamber and, if he ignores the summons, may be arrested and forced to sit before the senators.
While there are now millions of Filipino netizens, only this minority may be able to understand what the NBN project is or what it hopes to achieve. Methinks it is a really good project to link together all government agencies, national or local, as well as schools and businesses. Similar projects have done wonders in other countries like Australia. The problem is that the government which aims to do it is so unpopular, graft-ridden and widely perceived to be inefficient and incompetent — so much so that the NBN project is now cursed as if by authorities’ reverse Midas touch.
For background info and latest news on the NBN, please visit the Inquirer.net‘s NBN microsite. Tek 4 d Pipol gives an alternative, nay, progressive view on an NBN for the Philippines for the Philippines. Ditto for physicist Dr. Giovanni Tapang who reminds us in his blog Penguin tales:
Improving telecommunication services by using modern technologies, without corruption and foreign interests, will always be a welcome development for the people.