'First Gentleman, GMA must explain roles'
Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday called on President Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo to explain their presence at the ZTE main office in China at the height of the controversy surrounding the $329-million national broadband network (NBN) contract in 2006.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said the First Couple should be cited for impropriety or possible violation of ethical conduct.
Gordon said the Arroyos went to the Shenzhen Golf Club in China, even played golf and had lunch with ZTE officials on Nov. 2, 2006.
A scandal later erupted, with reports alleging that the award of the NBN contract was being rigged to favor several individuals, Gordon said.
Gordon said the President should explain her meeting with ZTE officials at a time when there were supposed efforts by the camps of former House speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and former elections chief Benjamin Abalos to corner the multimillion-dollar deal.
The senator noted that Mrs. Arroyo and her husband had been exonerated of any liability by the Ombudsman over the signing of the NBN deal with ZTE amid indications that their visit would formalize the signing of the scandal-ridden contract.
“It’s too early to say that (the Arroyos will be cleared of any liability) although in my report, there are issues that the President would have to explain,” Gordon told The STAR during the sidelights of GMA-7’s fun run event held yesterday.
Gordon stressed Mrs. Arroyo should explain why she went to the ZTE headquarters in China, her subsequent actions following her meeting with Chinese officials while Abalos’ and De Venecia’s groups were competing to bag the contract.
“Well, if you are the President and there is a big contract, you should not be playing golf with those who are pushing the contract. You should not dine with them. That is where the doubts arise,” he pointed out.
Gordon explained the Senate is not looking for the criminal aspect of the issue but to point out indications of unethical conduct on the part of the officials involved.
“We can recommend if there are clear evidence of lacking in ethical conduct since we have the code of ethics on people in government like the President, First Gentleman and even Speaker De Venecia, his son, Joey and even (whistleblower Rodolfo ‘Jun‘) Lozada,” Gordon said.
Over the weekend, Gordon declared De Venecia and his son and namesake Joey should also be held accountable.
Gordon said the Senate’s hearing on the issue set for tomorrow would tie the loose ends in the testimonies of witnesses.
The First Gentleman has been invited for tomorrow’s hearing to explain his side on the issue. Joey de Venecia and Lozada have so far confirmed their appearance in the hearing.
“We have seen many gaps that needed to be cleared. We want to fill up these gaps (in) re-opening the case,” Gordon said.
Gordon though admitted there is not enough evidence to pin down Mr. Arroyo on the criminal aspect.
Gordon added the President’s only fault was her apparent failure to pacify the camps of De Venecia and Abalos trying to corner the NBN contract.
Gordon explained the Senate hearing on the issue would focus on loopholes in the government procurement process in the light of the scandal left by the NBN-ZTE deal.
Gordon pointed out the problem lies in the ZTE deal that was not even part of any executive agreement between the Philippines and China.
Gordon also urged the public not to be carried by emotions that prevailed during the testimonies of witnesses at the initial stages of the Senate inquiry over the issue.
“We established that all concerned should explain because it showed that there were interested parties who were fighting to bag the deal,” Gordon said.
Gordon also said the suspension slapped by the Ombudsman against Neri is proper because he did nothing when he was informed of the irregularity.
“He should have been suspended not because he did not accept the bribe but because he failed to act and stop the bidding after he learned about the shenanigans by the differing interested parties. He should have cancelled the bidding outright,” Gordon said.
'First Gentleman, GMA must explain roles'
By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star)
Updated August 31, 2009 12:00 AM