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Sun.Star: Senate to summon Mike Arroyo

September 19, 2007 9:18am
Manila -- Senator Allan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, confirmed that First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike" Arroyo will be summoned to appear in the Senate investigation.

Mike Arroyo was named by Jose de Venecia III, son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., as the “Mystery Man" behind the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) deal.

De Venecia III testified Tuesday before the powerful Senate Blue Ribbon committee that it was the First Gentleman who is the powerful man and was considered part of the “Big Gang" behind the controversial deal.

The House Speaker's son made the revelation during the Senate inquiry into the alleged anomalous transaction, calling it an “onerous deal and grossly disadvantageous to the country" and 100 percent overpriced.

Cayetano assured that the move of the Senate to invite Mr. Arroyo and others, who were allegedly present during the Wack-Wack golf club meeting, to appear in the Senate hearing will be done in order to give them the chance to explain their side of the story.

Cayetano, in reaction to the First Gentleman’s usage of Executive Order (EO) 464, said Mr. Arroyo cannot use EO 464 because in the first place he is not a government official. And considering the graveness of the issue hurled against him, the senator demands that it is imperative that the First Gentleman appear before the investigating body and explain himself before the committee.

Narrating his side of the story, de Venecia III, owner of Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) which lost in the bidding of the NBN deal, said he was surprised when Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. invited him to a Wack-Wack meeting.

Threatened


The young de Venecia said he was threatened by Abalos and have his phone wiretapped and although there was an effort made by Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza to patch up things between them, he maintained his distance and finally decided to speak up because his conscience has been bothering him.

“In the spirit of truth and transparency, I am presenting myself here. This is the price I have to pay for following my conscience. I remained steadfast," said de Venecia III in his opening letter.

During the hearing, de Venecia III linked to the broadband deal Mr. Arroyo, Abalos and his chief of staff Jimmy Paz, retired police General Quirino dela Torre, certain Leo San Miguel and Ben Reyes.

The senators agreed that those names mentioned by de Venecia III must be immediately summoned to appear in the next hearing.

De Venecia III revealed that Abalos demanded "on the spot" kickbacks and even threatened his life.

A certain Ms. Fang Yang from China ZTE Corporation, a Chinese firm that won the NBN project, even asked Abalos about the advances that were already given to them.

According to de Venecia III, he earned the ire of Abalos after he refused to give in to his request to withdraw from the bidding.

He said Abalos raged when he found out that his company would be pursuing its original contract as submitted to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) without the unnecessary government loan and guarantee.

“Compared to ZTE with US$262 million covering only 30 percent of the entire country with sovereign guarantee, Amsterdam offers zero percent no cost to the government," he said.

Abalos, according to de Venecia III, threatened not only him but also columnist Jarius Bondoc, after the journalist decided to expose the anomalous deal in his column.

De Venecia III further said should President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo refuse to investigate and review the US$329.4 million broadband deal, then it is up to the proper court to decide.

“Yes. The President can cancel this contract at any point in time," he maintained.

Bondoc was present during the hearing as well as Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, proponent of one of two legal challenges to the NBN deal before the high court.

Those who were invited but failed to attend the hearing include Mendoza, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Transportation Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III, and Commission on Higher Education (Ched) chairman Romulo Neri.

Both Mendoza and Favila furnished the Senate letters wherein they relayed that they will skip the hearing so they will not be cited for contempt of court.

Favila and Mendoza stressed that the broadband deal is now pending before the Supreme Court (SC), which had already issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the agreement.

Neri was head of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), which evaluated the contract.

Malicious


The camp of the First Gentleman branded as “malicious" attempts to link his flight to Hong Kong on the eve of the Senate investigation on the NBN deal, saying he is on a “long-planned and delayed vacation" and not for anything else.

Lawyer Jesus Santos, spokesman for the First Gentleman, said his client has nothing to hide and is not in anyway involved in the project.

“The insinuation is disgustingly malicious. The First Gentleman had planned on the vacation even before he underwent open heart surgery several months ago. Besides, he has not been invited to the Senate inquiry so to even insinuate that he is trying to avoid the issue is totally unfair," Santos said.

He reiterated that Mr. Arroyo does not, and will never interfere with any government transaction.

“I therefore appeal to detractors of the government to spare the First Gentleman from their rumor mills and black propaganda. The only thing he wants now is to help the poor and the sick in his own little way and live a life in peace," Santos said.

He said his client spend his time, especially after the surgery, on many charitable works.

Presidential son and Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey" Arroyo said de Venecia III did not accuse his father of involvement in any wrongdoing.

Instead, Mikey Arroyo said de Venecia III told the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that the First Gentleman had asked him to back off from the NBN broadband deal following its awarding to China ZTE.

“Joey never said my father was in the middle of the negotiation. It’s saddening to hear this because my father is still recuperating," he said.

For his part, Negros Occidental Representative Ignacio Arroyo, younger brother of the First Gentleman, said if there is anyone who should be punished, it is the younger de Venecia who submitted a project proposal for the NBN deal despite the stature of his father.

“He (de Venecia III) made a bid and that’s prohibited being the son of the House Speaker. He can be put to jail for that," he said.

Ignacio Arroyo sounded disappointed that the House Speaker allowed his son to speak openly even at the expense of Mr. Arroyo’s name.

He said it is up to de Venecia Jr. to decide what must be done after his son’s revelations, stressing that it is a family matter that he should attend to.

The House Speaker stood to his son’s defense, stressing that the expose of de Venecia III is in the name of national interest.

De Venecia Jr. said his son and the First Gentleman are obliged to be transparent on the issue to shed light on the controversy.

“In this issue, both my son and the First Gentleman must be transparent to our people. The people have the right to know the truth, nothing less. Only the truth….the truth," said de Venecia Jr.

He added: “It’s now for the Senate to determine if Jose de Venecia III was straightforward in telling the unvarnished truth. My son has his own moral principles to guide him. He is his own man, strong enough to stand up for them." - Sun.Star