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Looking back: The NBN-ZTE controversy

It was two years ago when the First Couple was linked to the allegedly corruption-ridden NBN-ZTE project. The Arroyo couple was recently cleared of graft charges by the Office of the Ombudsman. The critics are crying foul. How did the controversy start? What were the allegations? Let’s look at what had happened. June 5, 2006: Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of Philippines-China Economic Partnership executed between the governments of the Philippines and China. NEDA Secretary Romulo L. Neri and DTI Secretary Peter B. Favila represent the Philippines and Commerce Minister Bo Xilai represents the People's Republic of China. April 2007: Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE Corp. Vice President Yu Yong enter into a US$ 329.5 million contract for a national broadband network (NBN) that will improve government communications capabilities. August 29, 2007: Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla discloses in a privilege speech that COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos met with ZTE officials in China weeks before April 2007, apparently to broker for the NBN project: "Apparently, Chairman Abalos' unofficial trips to China courtesy of ZTE Corporation and his golf games with the officers of ZTE Corporation can hardly be characterized as just friendly and totally innocuous. He was a man on a mission. Could the mission be the US $329 million NBN project?" Padilla notes that there were two other private entities which signified their intention to build the NBN for the government. The project cost in these private companies' proposals were cheaper than ZTE's. August 30, 2007: Abalos denies brokering for the National Broadband Network (NBN) project despite admitting he knows some officials in ZTE Corp. He admits making four trips to China and playing golf there, but denies reports that he had lobbied for the ZTE deal in exchange for money and sex. September 5, 2007: Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. files resolution calling for a Senate investigation into the circumstances leading to the approval of the broadband contract with ZTE Corp. September 10, 2007: In an affidavit, Jose De Venecia III claims that he was with Abalos in China when the latter met with ZTE officials. He claimed he heard Abalos demand for money from the ZTE officials. *De Venecia III is a majority shareholder of Amsterdam Holdings, Inc.. AHI submitted an unsolicited proposal to DOTC on the NBN project. De Venecia III is the son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. September 11, 2007: The Supreme Court en banc issues temporary restraining order against the implementation of the controversial NBN contract between the Philippines and Chinese firm Zhong Xing Telecommunications (ZTE) Corp. September 18, 2007: Testifying during a Senate hearing on the ZTE controversy, De Venecia III said FG Arroyo told him to "back off" from pursuing the multi-million dollar national broadband network project. September 20, 2007: Most cabinet members show up at the Senate to watch the continuation of the Senate hearing on the ZTE controversy. DOTC Leandro Mendoza attends the hearing, but former NEDA Director General Romulo Neri fails to show up. September 22, 2007: President Arroyo suspends the NBN-ZTE deal. In a statement, Bunye says, "On instructions of the President, Secretary Peter Favila conveyed to his counterpart the government's desire to suspend the implementation of the broadband deal." September 25, 2007: President Arroyo officially announces the suspension of the NBN and CyberEd projects: "We have suspended the national broadband and cyber education projects in response to political criticisms," she said. She also claimed that the alleged bribery was "discreetly investigated" and the "results of the investigations were reported as uncorroborated." ( September 26, 2007: Neri and Abalos face off at the Senate hearing. Neri testifies that Abalos told him, "May 200 ka dito" while playing golf at Wack Wack Golf Club; they had been discussing the ZTE deal at that time. Abalos denies making the apparent bribe attempt. Neri will later invoke executive privilege in response to some Senators' questions. September 27, 2007: Senate continues its hearing with UP professors as invited resource speakers. September 28, 2007: Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico files impeachment complaint against Abalos at the House of Representatives. October 1, 2007: Abalos announces his resignation as COMELEC chairman. October 2, 2007: In a meeting in Shanghai, China, President Arroyo informs Chinese President Hu Jintao of her "difficult decision" to cancel ZTE Corp.'s contract for the NBN project. October 5, 2007: Atty. Roel Pulido files impeachment complaint against President Arroyo over her alleged involvement in the NBN-ZTE controversy. Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis endorses complaint. October 9, 2007: Akbayan files criminal complaint against Abalos before the Office of the Ombudsman. January 30, 2008: Neri and Philippine Forest Corp. President Rodolfo Noel Lozada fail to attend the Senate hearing. Lozada leaves the country, apparently heading for London. Slighted by their non-appearance, the Senate issued warrants for their arrest. February 5, 2008: Lozada arrives at the NAIA but spirited away from the airport by unidentified men. February 6, 2008: PNP admits that Lozada is in their custody. February 7, 2008: Lozada resurfaces in La Salle Greenhills. Lozada, in a pre-dawn press conference, recounts how, in his attempt to avoid testifying at the Senate, ended up being taken from the airport against his will. He spent the night at the Senate. February 8, 2008: Lozada testifies at the Senate (see transcript here). August 27, 2009: The Office of the Ombudsman clears President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in the graft case related to the botched $329-million NBN deal with China’s Zhong Xing Telecommunications (ZTE) Corp., but recommends the filing of charges against former Commission on Elections chief Benjamin Abalos Sr. and former socio-economic planning secretary Romulo Neri. Sources: Office of the President, Rep. Carlos Padilla's privilege speech, Jose de Venecia III's affidavit, GMANews.TV