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Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. Senator Pimentel Debunks Palace’s Claim that Senate Mishandled NBN-ZTE Probe
Senator Pimentel Debunks Palace’s Claim that Senate Mishandled NBN-ZTE Probe PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Sunday, 16 March 2008 16:26

Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the piles of testimonial and documentary evidence on the anomalous national broadband network (NBN)-ZTE project that have surfaced in the series of Senate hearings belie Malacañang’s claim that the Senate has mishandled the inquiry on the case.

Senator Pimentel advised Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye not to play deaf and blind to such ample evidence in the face of his sweeping criticism that the Senate probe is anchored on “baseless and unsubstantiated” allegations.

The minority leader said the charges of bribery and overpricing in the $329-million NBN-ZTE deal first raised by businessman Jose de Venecia III have been corroborated by two other witnesses, Rodolfo Lozada, Jr. and Dante Madriaga, who both served as technical consultants to the project.

Mr. Pimentel said the bribery allegation against former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos was partly confirmed by former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri. Likewise, he said the latest witness, cable operator Leo San Miguel, had virtually admitted the participation of Mr. Abalos in the tainted transaction despite the witness’ attempt to conceal the ex-COMELEC chief’s role.

“Sad to say, that’s a cockeyed view from Secretary Bunye. In fact, the latest witness Leo San Miguel, despite being evasive in his testimony, corroborated Mr. Abalos’s participation in the NBN-ZTE deal,” he said in response to the press secretary’s tirade.

According to the young De Venecia, it was Mr. Abalos who was instrumental in convincing Malacañang to approve the telecommunications project. Mr. Madriaga testified that Abalos was part of the so-called “greedy group” or “gang of four” that brokered the deal. He identified the other members of the group as San Miguel, Ruben Reyes and retired Police Gen. Quirino de la Torre.

Mr. Abalos was not connected at all in the economic development in this country. He was with the COMELEC. How did he get involved in this project?

Mr. Madriaga had stated a number of times that Mr. Abalos was involved with the group that received the $41-million allegedly paid in advance by ZTE Corp. in three trances -- $1-million in December 2006, $10-million in March 2007 and $30-million in April 2007.

Senator Pimentel said Mr. Abalos would not have resigned as COMELEC chief in October last year if he really believed in his claim that there was nothing fraudulent about the NBN-ZTE deal nor with his participation in the transaction.

Senator Pimentel said Mr. Abalos could be held liable for graft, bribery and misuse of his office.

“You can hardly imagine a more incongruous participation in forging an agreement on the national broadband project by somebody who is not connected at all in the economic development in this country. Mr. Abalos was with the COMELEC. How did he get involved in this project? There must be profitable reasons why he assumed that role,” he said. # # #



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Last Updated on Sunday, 16 March 2008 16:28
 

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