Testify, risk ‘tragic ending,’ Palace warns JdV

May 26, 2008

Malacañang yesterday warned former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. that his testimony in the Senate on the controversial ZTE-National Broadband Network (NBN) project scandal could lead to a “tragic ending” for him.

Deputy presidential spokesman Lorelei Fajardo said should De Venecia decide to make public the information he knows about the broadband project, particularly the “secret meeting” betweeen President Arroyo and ZTE Corp. officials in China some two years ago, his numerous questionable deals might be exposed in the senate.

The Palace refused to identify the deals where De Venecia is involved, but hinted that the latter has no right to testify, because he himself has “unclean hands.”

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NBN witnesses set to undergo screening

May 15, 2008

A tight screening process for witnesses to the scandal-tainted and corruption-laced ZTE National Broadband Network whistleblowers is now de rigeur in the Senate prior to its presentation of witnesses at hearings yet to be scheduled.

But even as this appears to be a consensus among senators, there were fears raised that their insistence in having the witness provide an affidavit in advance for the legislators to examine and deem fit for a Senate hearing would merely provide Malacañang aides and allies the opportunity to know the identity of the witnesses in advance and work on the witness to recant, either through bribery or threats.

Such moves have been made in the past by Malacañang to ensure the cover-up of the crime.

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Senate sets hearing on GMA’s ‘secret visit’

May 14, 2008

Palace confirms that President Arroyo had meeting with ZTE officials in 2006

The Senate blue-ribbon committee has set a hearing for the new  witness in the national broadband scandal, who has photos of President Gloria Arroyo’s “secret visit” to ZTE headquarters in Shenzhen, China six months before she witnessed the signing of the firm’s $329-million contract for the scandal-plagued project.

Malacañang confirmed Wednesday that President Arroyo met with officials of ZTE during a side trip to China from Hong Kong in 2006.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, the committee chairman, said the new witness, whom he did not identify, had agreed to testify before the blue ribbon within the next two weeks. The blue ribbon did not have any hearing since former Socioeconomic planning Chief Romulo Neri went to the Supreme Court to question the blue ribbon’s authority to compel him to answer questions and to cite him in contempt.

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Hanjin’s bribe offer bared; Gloria scolded Mayor

May 2, 2008

Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp., the South Korean firm embroiled in the controversial construction of condominium units in the forest reserve area in Subic, is in for more serious problems as the company earned the ire of Senate probers again, this time stemming from a reported bribe offer to a local official in Mindanao.

Reports said the Korean firm allegedly offered a P400-million contract to a municipal mayor in Misamis Oriental in exchange for a reversal of his order stopping the construction of a $2-billion shipyard which had not secured the necessary permits.

This came after Senate investigators, led by Sen. Pia Cayetano, Thursday said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials were found to have allegedly committed grave violations in allowing Hanjin to construct two high-rise condominium buildings within its forest reserve area and the firm would likely be facing numerous serious charges.

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Senators oppose ZTE probe end; Cayetano backs off

April 30, 2008

With most of the senators expressing stiff opposition to Senate blue ribbon chairman Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s announced plan to “wrap up” the investigation of the ZTE-National Broadband Network (NBN) project in a week’s time, with a report to be submitted by the three panels, the blue ribbon chairman yesterday backed off from his plan to end the probe, saying instead that he was misunderstood by the media and what he had in mind was merely to issue a preliminary report.

A round of fierce debates is seen to ensue if Cayetano’s plan is to be pursued, as a number of senators are resisting the idea, keeping issues pending before the Supreme Court (SC) hanging such as the question on the invocation of executive privilege of Commission on Higher Education (Ched) Chairman Romulo Neri.

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Senate wraps up ZTE, starts South rail probe

April 29, 2008

The Senate’s three-committee panel that undertook a probe into the $329-million ZTE-National Broadband Network project has decided not to wait for the final ruling of the Supreme Court on the Romulo Neri case involving the invocation of executive privilege, as the Senate probers are ready to wrap up their inquiry into the controversial ZTE-NBN deal, even in the absence of any testimony directly linking Malacañang or even President Arroyo to the alleged kickbacks and bribery surrounding the botched contract.

Despite this, however, overall lead investigator, blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano indicated that the panel report they are now readying, which is due to be presented in the plenary in two weeks’ time, indicates “conclusive evidence” of the Executive’s liability, as well as the liability of China-based ZTE Corp. in the alleged irregularities committed in transacting the NBN project.

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SC told Sec. Neri to comment on Senate bid for review

April 15, 2008

THE Supreme Court, in an en banc session in Baguio City, yesterday ordered former Planning Secretary Romulo Neri and the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on the motion for reconsideration of senators on the high court’s March 25 ruling on the issue of executive privilege.

Prior to the en banc session, 200 members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Action for Economic Reforms and Solidarity Philippines held a Truth Caravan from Dagupan City for Baguio to personally deliver an open letter to the nine SC justices who signed the majority decision.

They marched toward the Supreme Court’s summer rest house gates and were welcomed by Chief Justice Renato Puno.
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