What happens when a group of high public officials come together to discuss the needs of the country? No, they don’t video themselves in compromising positions and post these in boybastos.com. They, however, the feed on each other’s fantasies and creative imaginations to conjure what the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) call “white elephant” projects such as the National Broadband Network (NBN).
In one of these sessions I guess, they saw the need for government offices to have internet connectivity. How this will improve government service that will justify the $329M that the government will have to borrow for the project still escapes my comprehension. Even former NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri initially disapproved of the project and it took the prodding of “President” Gloria Macapal (sic) Arroyo for him to give the NBN project the green light. To this day, Neri still refuses to confirm nor deny whether or not he was offered a P200M bribe to support the $329M NBN deal between the Philippine government represented by the DOTC and China’s Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment (ZTE) Corp.
It’s easy to get confused with the news these days. I saw COMELEC Commisioner Benjamin Abalos giving an interview on TV denying allegations that he brokered the deal. It is TRUE, he admits, that he played golf with ZTE executives both here in the Philippines and in China (in the middle of the election period), but they did not discuss the NBN deal with ZTE. He did admit also that they discussed other projects that the ZTE is interested in particularly those in Mindanao. He claims that he finds nothing illegal in this. (Think a little more Mr. Commissioner).
Then, I watch Finance Secretary Margarito Teves on TV confirming that it was indeed Abalos who introduced them (including DOTC Sec. Leandro Mendoza) to the ZTE representatives and that they discussed the project during that meeting. This contradicts Abalos claim of non-involvement.
If the allegations of Senator Panfilo Lacson about the amount of bribes being dispensed to public officials involved in the deal is true, to say that the amounts in millions of US dollars are scandalous is a gross understatement.
The scandal is still unfolding. Accusations and counter-accusations are being paddled around like a ping-pong ball. After what happened to the Hello Garci and the Fertilizer Scam scandals I am quite pessimistic that we will see the resolution of this scandal and the culprits being dragged to court and meted with punishment they deserve.
Early last week, Deputy Minority Floor Leader and Akbayan Party-List Representative Risa Hontiveros, called for the impeachment of Abalos. I am half expecting the Arroyo administration to rely on its sheer political power and clout and bribe their way out of this mess (there are millions of dollars from the deal to dispense with and feed to the sharks).
In the end, it is not difficult to see what this government really needs. Nah, its not inter-agency internet connectivity that our government needs so badly. It is HONESTY, ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY. If ZTE or any other multinational corporation can guarantee that it can install these values in government, $329M or even double that is a small amount to pay for an Honest, Accountable and Transparent Philippine government.
SC stops implementation of NBN project
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has stopped the government from implementing the $330-million National Broadband Network (NBN) contract it had forged with ZTE Corp. of China, the information chief of the high court has said.
“Now therefore, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court, you, respondents National Economic Development Authority, NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee, Department of Transportation and Communications Technology, Telecommunications Office, Bids and Awards for Information and Communications Technology Committee (ICT) , Technical Working Group for ICT, and all other Operating Units of the DOTC for Information and Communications Technology, ZTE Corporation; Amsterdam Holdings Inc., and ARESCOM, Inc., and any and all persons acting on their behalf are hereby enjoined from pursuing, entering into indebtedness, disbursing funds and implementing the ZTE-DOTC Broadband Deal and Project as prayed for,” the high court order said.
Lawyer Midas Marquez said Tuesday that the temporary restraining order the high tribunal issued would be an indefinite one.
Marquez said the TRO was in connection with Monday’s petition filed by Amsterdam Holding Inc. (AHI), which claimed that not only their rights but those of the Filipino people as well would be violated if the project would push through.
AHI wanted to undertake the NBN contract and had in fact submitted a proposal to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC). But the government had favored ZTE.
In its Petition for Mandamus and Prohibition with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order, the AHI told the high court that it should compel the government to provide the company with a copy of the contract for scrutiny.
“There appears to be a conscious effort on the part of government to conceal from interested parties all the relevant terms and conditions of the NBN-ZTE transaction. The result has thus far been that nobody, especially not petitioner AHI has been able to take government to task for what is turning out to be another fiasco,” it added.
AHI through lawyer Adrian Sugay added that with the way things were going, it would appear that the government was rushing the contract.
“The government is proceeding with this project with reckless abandon, impervious to the very valid concerns, criticisms, and misgivings already expressed during the past several months,” according to the AHI.
It added that a temporary restraining order should be issued while the case was pending with the high court.
Meanwhile, Marquez said the high court ordered the government through the signatories to the contract to comment on the petition filed by AHI.
Marquez said respondents were given five days upon receipt of the resolution to submit their comment.
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