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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Palace claims Lopezes using diversionary tactics through ads

May 15, 2008

By Sherwin C. Olaes - Its an ironic twist, it is now Malacañang accusing the Lopezes of engaging in diversionary tactics after the family’s patriarch, Oscar Lopez, sought in full-page advertisements that appeared in major newspapers the removal of the sales tax on electricity and the huge royalties on natural gas supplied from the Malampaya field to lower power rates.

Engaging the Lopezes in a battle over the supposed high electricity rates from the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) was believed to have been resorted to by President Arroyo to deflect growing criticisms against her after testimonies before the Senate linked her directly to the anomalous National Broadband Network (NBN)-ZTE controversy.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol said the Lopez demand that appeared in the advertisements was a diversionary tactic.

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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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Meralco management change target — Garcia

May 5, 2008

Where earlier he categorically denied government’s plan to wrest control of Manila Electric Co., Winston Garcia, president of cash-rich state pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), openly spoke yesterday of “changing the present management” of dominant power distributor Meralco.

The Lopez family, which has a diverse ownership in media and utility businesses, currently controls the management in Meralco.

Garcia also indicated in a statement yesterday that President Arroyo supports his every move against Meralco.

“I am happy that the President supports my move because we should now really change the present management of Meralco as they hold themselves accountable to nobody despite the many anomalies that are happening at Meralco,” Garcia said in a press statement.

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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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A year after Jonas Burgos was abducted by Military, his fate still unknown

April 27, 2008

Today, the family and friends of missing activist Jonas Burgos mark the first year anniversary of the abduction of the son of late press freedom icon, Jose Burgos, who was forcibly taken by armed men believed to be members of the military in a mall in Quezon City.

Exactly one year after his abduction, Jonas’ fate remains unknown and his whereabouts still a mystery.

Editha Burgos, mother of the missing activist, laments that the

Arroyo government has not acted with firm resolve to solve his son’s case.

“Up to now the military and the government is involved in a cover up including the Commission on Human Rights because they refuse to give us the papers,” Mrs. Burgos said during a press briefing at the Serye Café.

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