Who's been spreading the idea that Neri is Joe de Venecia's puppet. Why, the Manila Standard Today, of course, as early as Dec. 11, 2006:
People are still talking about last week’s attempt by House Speaker Jose de Venecia and his allies to ram the Constituent Assembly through Congress—and their subsequent tail-behind-the-legs retreat when they saw that their efforts were headed for a disaster of super-typhoon proportions.
But what a lot of people don’t know is that within the Arroyo Cabinet itself, a festering problem that has De Venecia’s fingerprints all over it has long been left unattended. And if the speaker’s vast and unwarranted influence in the affairs of state are to be truly reined in, his Cabinet surrogate must be stopped as well.
For years now, Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri has been espousing what he calls Plan 747, the catchily named program that seeks to spur 7-percent growth over seven years, with a view to achieving national economic stability by 2010. Nearly four years into his job as chief government economic booster, Neri has not only failed miserably to meet the goal he set; he has also shown a great talent for passing the buck and for good, old-fashioned window-dressing.
Neri’s entry into the Cabinet was largely De Venecia’s doing, because the speaker had wanted a more malleable Neda chief who would push his beloved railway rehabilitation projects. When De Venecia finally succeeded in engineering the removal of Dante Canlas as Neda director-general, the speaker recommended the long-time head of his Congress economic think-tank, Neri.
Neri has been a cooperative Neda chief, greenlighting the Northrail and Southrail projects that are so dear to the heart of his former boss. However, as far as the other aspects of his job as chief economic planning wizard of the Arroyo government are concerned, Neri can only be described as an abject failure.
It was shortly after Neri assumed his position that the government drew a lot of flak for window-dressing the number of jobs created by no longer including those “not actively seeking work.” By pulling this rabbit out of his hat, Neri and the rest of the government’s economic team were able to show that the unemployment rate declined from 11.4 percent to 10.7 percent from 2004 to 2005.
Neri also made the outrageous claim that poverty actually declined during his watch—but only because of the absurdly low poverty treshold of per capita income. Currently, according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board, a family of five needs an annual income of P65,565. This translates to P1,092 monthly per person, which breaks down to P36 daily. No wonder the latest Social Weather Stations survey revealed that despite Neri’s claims of poverty alleviation, unemployment and hunger are still rampant, with more than half of all Filipinos actually believing that life has become more difficult in recent years.