Here, the case against President Arroyo continues to build slowly. The latest corruption story is about a contract with a Chinese company to supply broadband coverage here that was canceled last year after an outcry about kickbacks being involved in granting the contract.

Usually what happens at this point is that witnesses decide to take a long vacation in the US or elsewhere in Asia, those who oppose the president bring up wild charges, the left demonstrates in the streets, and life goes on.

But this one may stick, if for no other reason that the main witness, “Jun” Lozada, returned from his vacation in Hong Kong and decided to testify to the Senate hearings on corruption.

Lozada himself is accused of (fairly minor) corruption (one claim is that he overcharged for buying some Australian goats), and surrogates for the President are making these accusations known.

For example, our local congressman sent our business cellphone a text message asking us to insist that Lozada’s corruption be investigated. I asked why, and was told his son was married to a relative of the President. Kinship outweighs politics in this matter.

But the press isn’t buying the smear campaign: As correspondent Ricky Carandaran points out:

Now he’s facing the full force of the law. Charges for perjury, allegations of corruption (which he doesn’t deny; but what’s a few thousand goats compared to $200 million?).

Similarly, there have been a “Unity March” of government officials backing backing the President, and the Manila Bulletin (the “business sector” newspaper) has several editorials today in her favor…for example, Hector Villanueva writes weakly comes to her defense:

there is no reason why President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should either resign or call for a snap election, or be forcibly removed from office for allegations of corruption that cannot be directly attributed to her person (which post war administration was not alleged to be corrupt?)

Like Bill Clinton’s “depends on what the meaning of “is” is”, this pretends that the allegations about the First Gentleman have nothing to do with the president, so let’s just move along folks.

Big business is so far behind the President, and so far the Catholic bishops’ conference here is not calling for her resignation, only that she “come clean” about corruption. The younger bishops are more apolitical than their predecessors, and Arroyo has supported their “prolife” agenda, and has eliminated the death penalty, another Catholic concern.
The Senate hearings are broadcast live on TV, and at least four witnesses presented testimony yesterday. We were busy all day, but last evening we watched as a new witness presented more evidence

A new witness testified before the Senate February 26 that President Arroyo and her agents received US$41 million in advance from officials of the National Broadband Network (NBN) supplier, Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp.

Dante Madriaga, an electrical engineer, claimed that he was the local consultant and liaison officer of ZTE from May 2006 to March 2007….

And then Neri showed a note to the Chinese Embassy with the notation “FG” (First Gentleman”) on it.

So what’s going on?

Well, Cory Acquino has said the President should resign.
The business community and the military are behind her, with many  individually  supporting her resignation.

The public wants her to resign, but probably not enough to go out and start a “People Power III” demonstration.

The Bishops want her to be honest, and stop corruption, but won’t ask for her to resign.

And the US is staying neutral: Arroyo has been a staunch ally in the “war on terror”, and has been quite successful in her “carrot and stick” approach to the MILF in Mindanao. A successor could change that. Yet the embassy is under pressure from human rights groups because of  “extrajudicial” killings, and is unhappy about the corruption that diverts much of the development aid into politicians’ pockets at all levels of government.

The floodgates could open if the President agreed to let those in her administration to testify to the Senate.

So the real question is if the stonewalling of President Arroyo will hold back the flood.

One note of law in her favor: Since by law, only one impeachment is allowed per year, and she had a quickie “impeachment” thrown out last fall, she can’t be removed from office until Fall.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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