(Update, 2:21 pm: Arroyo allows Cabinet men to attend Senate ZTE hearings. See also Arroyo orders Cabinet execs to attend NBN probe )
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Mike Arroyo is mystery man says the Inquirer; Joey tags Mike says Business Mirror. I think it’s safe to say the de Venecia revelations have resulted in shock and awe. The effect the testimony’s had, on people who were solid supporters of the President up to now, I think is particularly keen (from anecdotal evidence). I find it ironic though, that the “move on” crowd, now says “let’s do it right,” as Bong Austero puts it (hat tip to CJV).
Why so (the shock and awe and sudden posturing by “move on” crowd that they care)? JDV3’s testimony has what’s called verisimilitude, it involves behavior (his own, as a businessman who only made noise when he lost out; and everyone else as he’s described it) that is familiar to the upper-class supporters of the President, not only because they know her and her husband, but are fully aware that the way JDV3 described how deals are done, and where, is precisely how they’re done -and by whom.
In the blog smoke, there’s this exploration of how the de Venecia III revelations, for example, have cast a pall over habitues of Wack-Wack golf club:
That sound you hear is the sound of no one being surprised.
Well at least i wasn’t surprised. And I don’t suppose the other regular habitues of Wack Wack were surprised either. Big deals – not all of them crooked – are conceptualized and finalized in that place. Mostly because in there, you’re among people who understand that loose lips sink ships. There’s a kind of unspoken rule that, within the walls of Wack Wack, people can speak freely about how best to make money, even if it involves a conspiracy against the public. This kind of freedom is not available elsewhere because, elsewhere, you run the risk of being spotted by media, or by ‘others’ – people who inhabit less rarefied circles of society who look up at you and would tear you down in a minute if they could. Wack Wack was a safe haven where you didn’t have to show guilt for being filthy rich and where you could talk about people as tradeable commodities without inviting moral judgment from others. In there, business was strictly business.
By unbuttoning his lips and talking about the wheeling and dealing inside Wack Wack, Joey has broken that rule and thoroughly shaken a lot of people up. For many captains of industry and finance, Joey’s tattling has pretty much upset their conception of places like Wack Wack as a safe place to talk unabashedly about making money by all means possible.
Many members have long since stopped golfing, but still they come. Not for the links, but for the linkages created by aggressive networking. But with Joey’s revelations, the sense is that if you can’t talk shop in Wack Wack, what use is going there?
There’s a hushed silence in the Verandah – normally a place abuzz with several conversations going on all at once in different tables. No one wants to talk anymore, or talk loudly. Whispers all around; some remember seeing what Joey was relating, but they don’t want to talk about it. They don’t even want to talk about him, except to say that in a moment of pique, he screwed them all good. So Marie Antoinette, eh? And these rich fellows, eyes glued to the televised chat session of the year unraveling of the sanctity of their sanctum sanctorum, resemble a bunch of nobles and aristos, cowering within the palace at versailles, waiting for the torches to come and illuminate the grounds. A seige mentality is settling in.
What sets apart JDV3’s ratting on his peers from Chavit Singson is that Chavit’s testimony was a peek into the mafia underworld; JDV3’s testimony is squealing on how business and political circles conduct themselves.
In his blog, ABC5 Malacanang reporter Jove Francisco recounts the President’s day, yesterday:
As the president went on with her schedule today…
It was quite apparent that she’d rather not think about the noise emanating from the halls of the upper chamber brought about by the investigation on the ZTE deal.
Never mind that her “vacationing” husband was again dragged into a controversy.
Observers say it is either the president is really focused on her job or is already desensitized by political intrigue.
But evidently, the President is concerned about the issue.
Minutes before Joey De Venecia dropped the bomb at the Senate identifying First gentleman Mike Arroyo as the MYSTERY MAN of the ZTE deal…
The President, just before the cabinet meeting, pre-empted him by going live on government nationwide television to address the raging issue about the supposed anomalous contract…
True to her resolve to apply Executive Order 464, she then gave clear instruction to her officials to shun appearing before lawmakers and just explain themselves in court.
She specifically advised DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza to face the Supreme Court to shed light on the ZTE Broadband deal…
The pattern of being evasive only made more people suspect that the sudden trip abroad of First gentleman Mike Arroyo last night is connected to the broadband deal investigation and that he’s trying to flee from the controversy.
In the end, in the face of the investigations, all the Palace can come up with, is a Claim of impunity, as the Inquirer editorial puts it. And in classic Watergate mode, Gil Cabacungan asks, What did President know, when did she know it?
The First Couple and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., during a 10-city visit to China, were invited by the ZTE president to play golf in Shenzen where Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. was one of the guest players, Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, a son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., said in his testimony at the Senate Tuesday.
Based on his father’s account, ZTE offered to build a broadband network on a government-to-government basis, to which Ms Arroyo suggested that the company follow “Joey’s proposal,” a build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme, the younger De Venecia said.
Amsterdam Holdings Inc., the company founded by the younger De Venecia, submitted an unsolicited bid to undertake the NBN project. AHI lost the contract to ZTE.
“Why don’t you just copy Joey’s proposal — no guarantee, no debt, no subsidy and no risk to the government?” the businessman said, quoting his father on what Ms Arroyo had told Abalos.
I find it interesting that reporters would grill the surgeon of the President’s husband for political opinions, while the lawyer of the President’s husband talked about the medical imperatives of the trip.
There’s a contradiction. The surgeon said Atty. Arroyo told him of the trip last Tuesday:
But Cariño, whom the First Gentleman had been calling “my miracle surgeon,” said his patient’s trip to Europe had been planned for some time.
He said Mr. Arroyo asked him last Tuesday for permission to go on a European trip.
“He really wanted to go abroad. He said he will go to Europe, with his friends. He said he would be there only two weeks,” Cariño said.
Cariño said the First Gentleman did not specify his ultimate European destination. Sources, however, said that from Hong Kong, Arroyo was en route to Munich, Germany.
The lawyer said the trip was planned even before the emergency surgery:
Santos said Mr Arroyo’s departure last Monday has nothing to do with the ZTE deal controversy, because the First Gentleman’s trip abroad was planned even before he underwent heart surgery last April.
One possible destination, Munich, Germany, is very, very, interesting, too. Remember all that fuss about German bank accounts? In her column, Ellen Tordesillas scoops everyone else with detains on Arroyo’s itinerary and traveling companions:
Accompanied by his cousin, Benito “Bomboy” Araneta, Mike Arroyo left Manila Monday afternoon for Hong Kong.
In Venice, a source said Mike Arroyo will be met by a very close female friend whom we identified earlier in this space as “E”, who is a Filipina carrying Swiss citizenship.
“E” had gone ahead to Switzerland last week.
Our source said Arroyo’s party is billeted at Luna Hotel Baglioni in Sestiere di San Marco. They will be brought there by boat.
An internet search showed that the Luna Hotel Baglioni, is one of the most elegant and luxurious hotels in Venice. It is said to be the oldest hotel in Venice. The Knights Templars are known to have stayed in a building on the Luna’s site in 1118 during the Crusades.
Arroyo and his party will be staying in Venice up to Friday. On Saturday, they will all go to Zurich, the banking capital of Switzerland. As we all know, Switzerland is where people keep their money whose origins they cannot explain.
The source said Arroyo’s good friend, Rey David, president of the Development Bank of the Philippines, will join Gloria’s husband, his lady friend, and his cousin. They will be in Zurich up to Monday.
After three days in Zurich, they will proceed to Munich, Germany where they will be joined by two more businessmen, who are known as Arroyo’s cronies. The source said Mike Arroyo is expected to be back on Oct. 3 via Hong Kong again.
So it’s not just the timing of the trip, but the destination, that could be characterized as “unfortunate”.
Meanwhile, the Comelec Chairman says there was no meeting. The Speaker, who leaves for abroad today (update 2:39 pm the Speaker has apparently put off his departure for Rome; Rep. Luis Villafuerte apparently went on radio and warned the Speaker might be toppled), says his son is his own man, even as Arroyo’s House allies in disarray; kin to the defense:
What’s going on? What’s happening to our coalition?” asked Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, 81-year-old stalwart of Ms Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) party.
Garcia seemed at a loss as to the impact of the revelations of the son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. on the already unsteady relationship within the ruling coalition in the House of Representatives.
Also, the Palace beats the Senate to the punch in releasing a supposed statement by Senator Santiago -and in releasing a supposed de Venecia III statement, too. What’s certain is the President’s statement: Mendoza ordered to explain ZTE deal before SC.
The blog Breathing Space boils down the battle of the statements quite succinctly, I think:
Comelec chair Abalos said that Joey’s testimony in the Senate were “all lies”
That’s a general denial, Mr. Abalos. As a lawyer you know the effect of general denials. That won’t work.
What goes against Abalos and the Arroyo government is that they are refusing to refute the accusations of Joey in the Senate.
Worse, Mike Aroryo slip out of the counrty on the eve of Joey’s scheduled Senate testimony.
If Mike Arroyo didn’t know beforehand that Joey was going to involve him in this multi-million dollar transaction, so now he knows.
He should be rushing back to the Philipines to explain things.
He shouldn’t be on vacation, as his legal parrots want the people to believe.
President Arroyo also is not of help when she directed Transportation Sec. Leandro Mendoza to answer Joey’s accusations in the Supreme Court and not in the Senate.
How can Mendoza do that when he is not a lawyer?
Only lawyers appear before the Supreme Court.
More, the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts but resolves and adjudicates questions of law.
The people are waiting for the government’s response to Joey’s accusations.
If they don’t, Joey’s testimony’s stands, and the government looses by default.
As for the aggrieved firm itself, ZTE denies bribe, feels frustrated. Now a great service to all readers has been provided by Placeholder, who’s published a preliminary analysis of the ZTE contract for the NBN; the blogger is in the IT field (the contract is available on line).
See The ZTE cast of characters: Loser, husband, political foes and deputies for reference. Then refer to Manuel Buencamino’s column, where he looks at the cast and says,
If the mystery man is directly linked to Mrs. Arroyo, I doubt she can count on the continued support of even the most vacuous civil-society matrons, those ladies who used a photograph and a statement of Leah Navarro for an advertisement without first getting her permission.
Even Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, that great exponent of moral relativity when it involves Gloria Arroyo, might hesitate to come to her aid.
But I could be wrong; truth is no match against empty minds and unscrupulous prelates.
Benjamin Abalos Sr. is the perfect villain. He didn’t suspect fast enough that the trickle of exposés about his involvement with ZTE could have been deliberate. He responded to each new revelation without first considering the possibility that an even more damning one would follow. He feigned ignorance reflexively, and now he has painted himself into a corner.
Abalos may deny he offered de Venecia the younger a bribe, that he bugged and threatened him, or that they discussed what Joey said they discussed; but he cannot deny that he was up to his neck brokering the ZTE deal.
Those meetings at Speaker Jose de Venecia’s home, at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club, at the Comelec offices, at the Kempinski Hotel in Shenzen, China, and at the Diamond Hotel in Manila definitely happened.
The only thing that Abalos can claim didn’t happen is the sexcapade in China. And, frankly, I believe Abalos told the truth about that.
He can screw millions of voters in one day, with or without sipping soup from Shang Palace, but I doubt he can play a round of golf and do two girls on the same day, with or without a handful of orange pills.
As Arthur Conan Doyle once said, “Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
In Inquirer Current, I take a stab at analyzing the geopolitical circumstances surrounding the ZTE deal, and why the President’s stuck trying to find ways to uphold a politically-noxious deal.
And from Palawan Bushman, a letter to a columnist, with a harsh but thought-provoking analysis of our national culture. Timely.