The Empire Strikes Back

Update 2:13 pm In a comment on her blog, Ellen Tordesillas says the President’s husband arrives back home tomorrow.

Update 1:42 pm Atty. Gabriel Villaroel, lawyer of Abalos, says the ex-Chairman will file damage suits versus Jose de Venecia III; versus Romulo Neri; and also, a perjury suit versus Romulo Neri.

Update 12:57 Surrounded by his family, Benjamin Abalos, introduced by Benhur, speaks: (shrieks of support from loyalists):

Good Afternoon, specially to my townmates from Mandaluyong many barefoot and in slippers, here even with the bad weather. Thank you for coming to this press conference I called to let our countrymen know how I truly feel about issues and controversies involving my honor, my work, and the privacy and tranquility of my family. It’s been a week since I appeared at the Senate, despite counsel of lawyers and friends, expecting they’d be fair and statesmanlike. I was sorely mistaken, not treated fairly; limited to what they wanted to hear; in these few days of consultation of family and friends, I have come to the painful determination to separate my person from the office I hold. Ladies and gentlemen, I have resigned… (screams of outrage from audience) effectively immediately. However, let not my detractors feast on this… I am not admitting guilt and I am not giving up on my determination to clear my name. I am doing this to spare the Comelec. October 20 election will be detached from my problems…. And this proves I am not dangling so-called political debts… or that administration is out to protect me… Forty years ago I entered politics… and in support of the reasons I entered, that’s why I am resigning…. I am doing this to prevent a long drawn-out impeachment process… Thank you to colleagues in government for comfort all these years… Thank you to my family… I am all the more determined to continue my crusade to clear my name and reputation and dispel the lies… The fight isn’t over! (cheering) However long the darkness lasts, there will be a beautiful dawn, we shall meet again, heads raised high, in a new dawn. Thank you.

The Romans had a term for this sort of thing: falling on one’s sword. He spared himself the risk of an impeachment trial and conviction; and he avoided the opportunity to spill the beans on the President. Benhur’s lease on political life, too, has been given a reprieve, which in the end may have been the clincher. Charges will now be in the hands of the (ta-dah!) Ombudsman.

Update 12:49 TV reports a mass going on with 500 supporters at the residence of Chairman Abalos, and he will then make a statement. Abalos looks calm and collected, Benhur Abalos grimacing and frowning.

Update 10:57 am: News vans arrived and began setting up at the House of Representatives this morning, in expectation of a stormy session this afternoon. Congressmen have been trickling in to endorse the impeachment complaint versus Chairman Abalos. Word is, an informal head count by Abalos’s family indicates the proponents of impeachment have the numbers. The Speaker has gone on record releasing members of the House from their loyalty to the party line -turning impeachment into a “conscience vote.” The Chairman has announced he is holding a press conference at noon, and there is talk that rather than face an impeachment, he will resign. Others believe he will, instead, release a bombshell to try to derail the brewing impeachment.

***

This is, perhaps, the longest text message I’ve ever received, sent by a Palace loyalist. I assume it represents the emerging party line (which has taken them long enough to put together!) and therefore, this message bears close scrutiny concerning those the message absolves and defends and those it condemns:

Neri must be compelled to talk. He’s invoking Exec Priv bec he wants d public think he s protecting GMA. Neri started by telling media he will talk about d bribe offer n d proper forum bec he wants d senate 2 investigate him. at d senate he invoked Exec Priv. Neri s slowly poisoning d mind of d public so dey wud suspek pres s involved. He’s blackmailing admin. 2 protect JDV’s speakership. GMA tried 2 cancel NBN when she met ChinaPres n APEC but he threatened 2 cancel all other future investments f she does. D suspension of all d China supported Agri proj. worth USD 1.3B s just d start. Facts:China appointed ZTE 2 implement d NBN proj. ZTE contracted-Multimedia telephony (4merly owned by JDV3 & sold 2 Ricky Razon n 2003) 2 b their Manila counterpart. JDV3 tried 2 steal it thru Neri, a JDV puppet. Neri, issued a comfort letter 2 JDV3 so he can raise funds & pressure ZTE 2give him d contract instead of Multimedia. When he failed even w/ his father’s power pushing, he decided to go 2 media & opposition. In JDV3’s testimonies he said he went to see ZTE several times but never said he went 2 DOTC 2 push his offer. Abalos s d broker of ZTE n getting China 2 appoint ZTE. Abalos stands to earn P200M frm ZTE. JDV3 thought Abalos can convince ZTE 2 move him what razon got. Razon sought d help of FG 2 stop JDV3. MVP also tried 2get a share of d biz but Razon wont let him. N return, PLDT paid d UP prof P1M 2 make d study dat wil put d NBN-ZTE look bad. PLDT s funding all d bad PR on Razon & giving d opposition senators d bullets 2 kill d NBNZTE. NBN-ZTE s nothing but a fight of greedy pipol but could cause enormous economic loss 4 d country.

The message places the President as the heroine, and Enrique Razon as one of the aggrieved parties, and pits the Presidents versus the Speaker and the Philippines as the victim of Chinese dictation (as for the Chinese government itself, it’s issued diplomatically impeccable, vanilla statements: China closely monitors ZTE probe, though there is speculation the President might cancel her upcoming trip to China: Palace: No word yet on cancellation of Arroyo’s China visit).

I think this long text message suggests the emerging Palace view as to those who are allied on one side (its side), and how it’s lashing out at former allies it now considers on the other side.

Consider this part of the proceedings last Wednesday:

Abalos: I have here copy of letter, my counsel secured… Addressed to Mike Defensor stated it may interest to know that ZTE a reputable firm in China, responded to this undertaking and consequently, Chinese government designated it as NBN “frime” contractor.

Lacson: Mr de Venecia?

JDV3: This is 1st or 2nd time I’ve heard this in 3 days. Why is Abalos involved in NBN? To rebut him, I divested my shares in multimedia telephony, in 2003, bought by Anscor, Ricky Razon… I have documents that show in 2004 supply contract between my former company and ZTE with regards to vendor contract. I don’t need Abalos to lobby for me because I already know ZTE.

Note that JDV3 says he sold out to a group composed of the Sorianos and Ricky Razon (and note the connection to the text message I quoted in its entirety).

Much later in the same hearing, this came out:

Pimentel: I understand you’ve incurred the ire of some business people, because of your stand of privatization of arrastre service?

Neri: There’s a monopoly, I favored allowing Harbor Center to compete, as our containter fees among highest costs in the world for containers…

Pimentel: Among those angry is Ricky Razon?

Neri: Well, met him at reception for Equitorial Guinea president, Speaker’s mother-in-law’s house, Forbes Park, it was there he accosted me, in effect telling me, in effect, you will allow Harbor Center to operate over my dead body.

Those familiar with the inner circle of the President know that Enrique Razon wields great influence. Some have gone as far -and this inference can be drawn from Neri’s testimony- that Razon, whose resume includes interest in container and port management, publishing and printing, etc (he got into publishing, it seems, when the Sorianos sold him the Manila Standard; he then further acquired Today to form The Manila Standard-Today) was influential enough to get Neri removed from the director-generaliship of NEDA because he wanted arrastre services liberalized (Razon has shown his infighting skills in this department in the past).

In other words, according to those claiming to be in the know, it was Neri’s decision on the ports issue that got him moved out of NEDA, and it had nothing to do with ZTE which, after all, Neri ended up signing off on.

One source went as far as saying that as far as JDV3’s testimony that Multimedia Telephony was sold by JDV3 and now owned by Razon, the Sorianos, Server, etc., is true; a source mentioned Nono Ibazeta, now president of Psalm, formerly our ambassador to Iraq as a “padrino” but of what, exactly, was never clear (But as for the connection between the two? Ibazeta was ambassador to Iraq; Razon was appointed by the President a member of the Public-Private Sector Task force on the Reconstruction and Development of Iraq: an investigative reporter would be licking their chops over such a lead) .

And there’s more: Arroyo okayed talks with ZTE on NBN before NEDA review. This compounds the issue.

But the combination of Neri disappointing those expecting him to tell all, and yet, the obvious lack of celebration on the part of the Palace and its partisans, brings up something blogger chizjarkace wrote:

Even after being urged by some senators that yesterday was the day Neri could do the country a great favor by not hiding under the executive privilege, he still insisted that he was only following Ermita’s order.

That was a clear sign of Neri’s loyalty to the administration, but is the administration loyal to him? I don’t think so. In fact Ermita just denied that he was the one who ordered Neri to invoke the privilege. If Neri wasn’t lying about it then Ermita is. Neri should take that as an indication that even how much he shield Malacañang, he is not assured to get the same protection. Who knows, if the controversy becomes even bigger, he might be the next fall guy for the couple in the palace.

As Justice Isagani Cruz opined,

Romulo Neri appears to be the most believable of the three witnesses, considering his clean living image and his magna cum laude academic credentials from UP and the MBA degree from the University of California. I am disappointed, however, that when asked about President Macapagal-Arroyo’s possible involvement in the scandal, he evaded the question and invoked her – not his – ”executive privilege” in obedience to Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s instruction. Some persons may be honest but not necessarily brave.

The Ignatian Perspective pens a spirited defense of Romulo Neri, and encourages him to withstand the tremendous pressures he’s undeniably being subjected to, by all sides. Ricky Carandang, in his blog, says those disappointed with Neri fail to see that what he has revealed, under oath, is damning enough (something also said in a recent Inquirer editorial by the way). As Carandang puts it,

I know many are disappointed at former NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri’s performance at Wednesday’s senate hearing on the ZTE Broadband deal, but I think he said a mouthful…

Despite being informed of the bribe offer, Arroyo eventually approved the ZTE broadband deal.

On its face, the fact that a cabinet level officer reported a bribery attempt in connection with the deal should have been enough cause for Arroyo to stay away from it. It should have also been grounds for Neri to refuse to nominate te ZTE deal. And yet, despite the bribe offer, that’s exactly what they did.

Not only is that improper, that’s illegal.

What should have happened is that Arroyo should have referred the matter to the Ombudsman and out of a sense of propriety, refused to entertain the ZTE proposal. Neri should have either refused to sign the April 20 letter or — if he were somehow being pressured to sign it — resigned.

Now, like some chess maneuver, Benjamin Abalos is being sacrificed as Malacanang circles the wagons around Arroyo.

But what we’ve learned is that Arroyo knew that Abalos was pushing the ZTE deal as early as October. She was also aware that a senior cabinet member was claiming that Abalos attempted to bribe him. In other words, she had knowledge of two illegal acts pertaining to the ZTE deal prior to approving it.

Many people were disappointed that Neri didn’t somehow implicate Arroyo in all this. They suspect, with good reason, that the subsequent conversations that Neri refused to talk about would indicate the extent of her involvement in ZTE. And they would be right. But what people don’t seem to realize is that already, Neri’s testimony has damned his president. And possibly himself as well.

Yesterday, a dramatic headline appeared in the Inquirer: Neri was ready to talk about ZTE. The revelations, which go beyond the usual two-source requirement but lists four sources, are quite astounding:

According to the four sources of the Inquirer, Neri was ready to answer the senators’ questions when Sen. Joker Arroyo intervened. (The sources all declined to speak on the record in deference to the gag rule governing executive sessions.)

Arroyo reportedly made a motion to allow Neri to avail himself of the legal counsel of his choice.

“I think he tried to help” was how a source explained Arroyo’s purported move.

On the phone last night, Arroyo denied that he had intervened….

After Arroyo’s motion, Budget Secretary Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr. entered the members-only Senators’ Lounge, according to the Inquirer sources.

Andaya, who succeeded Neri in the budget department, came in supposedly to act as the latter’s lawyer.

A source said the senators had an argument about the presence of Andaya, who, some insisted, should not be acting as Neri’s lawyer because he was also a member of the Cabinet.

“It’s hard to predict what he (Neri) was going to say, but he was about to talk. I think it’s the presence of Nonoy that stopped him,” one source said…

…Inside the Senators’ Lounge, Neri began to experience chills, and by one observer’s account, it might have been partly because he was afraid.

The sources could not explain how Andaya got into the picture, but he was seen arriving at the Senate a few hours before the senators decided to take Neri to the executive session.

“Basta dumating na lang, umupo doon (He just arrived and sat there),” a source said.

The sources said Andaya told the senators not to press Neri to talk because the latter was sick.

“Then kinalabit na niya si Neri,” a source said…

…The executive session was over in less than 30 minutes.

The story led to angry replies: Joker denies he blocked Neri’s ZTE deal exposé. And to the Palace laying the basis for a possible non-appearance in the future: Palace exec: Neri sore at media for sowing ‘intrigues’. After all, I have nothing more to say on broadband deal–Neri.

(update: Jarius Bondoc has taken an unprecedented step for a columnist, revealing his source and what the source told him; originally, he was going to hold a press conference but instead, the information appeared in his column this morning; because the Star website’s links are wacky, I’m reprinting the column in full):

I understand why Neri couldn’t talk
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc
Monday, October 1, 2007

I called Romy Neri right after testifying Sept. 18 in that first Senate hearing on the ZTE scam. It was our tenth talk about the issue since Apr. 20, when The STAR ran my first of a series of articles. I pried why he didn’t show up, if he was under any threat of harm, and when he’ll reveal all he knows. From his replies it was clear he was charily weighing the consequences. There’s a time and place for everything, he mused, then asked if what he has narrated to me thus far would “incite another EDSA.” I said I didn’t know, but that I do wish the Senate inquiry would spark a wave of reforms, starting with clean elections. He shared the dream, but doubted if it would come true soon. Our talk eventually led to sacrificing for the sake of the nation. He said Joey de Venecia was brave to implicate big names, adding that if push comes to shove the young whistleblower fortunately has a rich dad to fall back on. “I’m not affluent,” Romy stated the obvious. Neither am I, I reminded him. Whereupon, he shot back: “Oh, but you’re a journalist, you’re supposed to be dedicated to the truth.”

Yes, in this calling our first instinct is to truth and justice, at all costs. So with Romy’s words in mind I must disclose what he has told me. I know I might get him and myself into deep trouble with powerful persons. But that is journalism. Too, in my hierarchy of values, God is first, country next, family and friends third, and myself bottom. Patriotic duty calls.

Romy bared many frightening things when he called me morning of Apr. 20. I had written that the government was rushing to award the ZTE contract the next day in Boao, China, and that the NEDA, which he headed then, had approved the overpriced telecoms supply in a huff. Before I could ask anything, Romy blurted three items in succession: “This deal was the handiwork of Ricky Razon and Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos … I warned President Arroyo about this, and also told Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. … Abalos tried to bribe me P200 million.”

I was stunned, and asked him to start over again by answering some basic questions. Like, how the NEDA got involved in this, and why a build-operate-transfer project suddenly became a negotiated supply purchase. He said “NEDA had to make an evaluation any which way.” Too, the law “allows the President to waive ODA (overseas development assistance) rules in a bilateral or government-to-government agreement.” He stressed that NEDA had no capacity to determine any overpricing, then explained the three steps in any NEDA project review.

Three times Romy repeated he had warned Arroyo about the deal. He told her about the bribe offer, and she allegedly replied “then don’t accept it, but work on the approvals just the same.” He said Arroyo kept blaming Joey for the mess that was then brewing.

The culprits in this deal, he said, are “ZTE Corp., Razon, Abalos - and one more….” When I asked why his NEDA approved the ZTE proposal when he knew all along it was stinky, he said, “GMA was pushing it, and it’s our job to process.” With pain in his voice, Romy said he had almost resigned the day before.

“My life is in your hands,” Romy cautioned towards the end. He said Abalos had wiretapped one of his staff, and Razon had once threatened him at a cocktail party hosted by the Speaker.

Before he hung up, Romy said that my exposé had the potential to mar the administration’s chances in the May election. It was so explosive, he counseled, so I must be very careful. He also said he would fire off a Letter to the Editor to clarify his role, in view of the sensitive info he had just shared.

I expect Romy to get mad at me initially. He already did because of my column last Monday, which his friends said put him in peril for hinting at what he might testify to. I apologized to him Tuesday, explaining that I intended his potential tormentors to realize, for his safety, that some other persons and I know what he knows. Too, that I wanted corroboration of Joey’s testimony.

I also expect Romy to understand in the end. He was feverish and coughing when he testified Wednesday. The media have since praised him for boldly divulging Abalos’s bribe attempt, but also pilloried him for hedging on matters involving higher officials. Some even mocked him for downplaying his role at NEDA as presidential co-chair of major projects, making it look like he wasn’t worth a P200-million payoff to begin with.

But then news reports have it that Romy was ready to bare all during the executive session at 9 p.m., just that he was having chills. I pray I can help him with this. Before the hearing I offered Romy a prayer for fortitude. He said he was more courageous than us. I don’t doubt it.

My column today,Should thuggery trump secrecy? tackles this dramatic story of an “intervention” in the Senate’s executive session (I translated “kalabit” as “nudged,” which may or may not impart the proper imagery). It is a story that suggests those inclined to sympathize or at least show compassion towards Neri, may be on to something, and that the new official line he has nothing more to say, is to prevent his saying anything further. The man didn’t just fold because the pressure was intense; the pressure may have been applied persistently and in a manner that represents an institutional assault on the senate itself. This morning, at least one senator is of a similar view: Lacson: Andaya lawyered for Neri during call for exec meet.

And, bearing in mind what Ignatian Perspective and Ricky Carandang wrote, blogger Slap Happy ties it all together with the reports on the Senate’s Executive Session:

In fact, the mere notion that he cited Executive Privilege was to keep everybody in bated breath over what he has to say. It’s like his way of telling the Senators, “I have something, and boy oh boy will you love this, but wait, they might go after me after this so you have got to assure me safety.”

I think this safety clause should be made before he changes his mind, lest we suddenly read the papers tomorrow and find that he has flown out of the country.

All of this talk had stemmed from Neri’s appearance in an executive meeting of the Senators who were investigating the NBN Deal.

In an article from Inquirer.net, Neri was supposed to start talking had not someone intervened and allowed him to have legal representation for the meeting, and then Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya appeared and said that he was appearing on Neri’s behalf.

This was when they noticed Neri getting the chills or feeling sick or something. The guy must be really scared with the information he holds.

Pretty much like what i have written earlier, this has become more of like a soap opera where the plot thickens and characters with significant issues suddenly appear.

If the rumors are true, and what he indeed knows will blow up in the executive office faces, i think it is our moral duty to protect and impose upon Neri the moral ascendancy to speak up and correct what he sees is wrong.

Since these hearings will resume, yesterday’s Inquirer editorial imparts some advise on how such hearings can be better handled:

The Senate must review its procedures. The lowest point was Richard Gordon acting like a petulant child, insisting on adding a full hour to the proceedings because he craved television time, when even his usually fractious colleagues had decided to go into executive session. Gordon wouldn’t even give the chairmen of the committees, Sen. Alan Cayetano in particular, the basic respect due a chairman. We have seen many moments of political degeneracy in our recent Senates, but Gordon’s was among the most galling debasements of the Senate. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s slur on an entire civilization came quite close in disgracefulness.

The Senate has no apologies to make for seizing on the ZTE-NBN issue and following the money, as investigators of Watergate were once advised. They are doing their job – but so badly as to be incompetent. They must learn to ask proper questions, which requires teamwork, and they must show they know as much as – if not more than – wily executive officials trying to prevent their finding out the truth.

But it goes beyond that: the Senate must not shrink from a confrontation with the Executive, not only on the basis for invoking executive privilege, but on its possible intrusion into the executive session.

And if it’s true that ‘GMA allies ready to sacrifice Abalos’, is a premature feeding frenzy worth it? Once you pick Abalos’ political carcass clean to the bone, then what? Or sustain the pressure, and investigate all the way to the top? Update 12:12 pm: however, the Speaker has gone on record releasing his partymates from party loyalty or discipline on this issue, making their choices on whether to sign on to impeachment or not, a “conscience vote.” Since party discipline is the ultimate line of defense, this suggests the Speaker’s implicitly favoring impeachment. The Speaker’s expected to endorse the impeachment complaint to the Committee on Justice this afternoon or tomorrow, which means it could then gather steam, with congressmen trickling in to sign on.

On another note, in Inquirer Current John Nery clarifies some misreported details; this made me review my liveblogging account and whew, at least he wasn’t referring to my (terse) account:

Estrada: you said, Mystery Man was Atty. Arroyo. When did you first see him?

JDV3: earlier this year, Wack-Wack, it was Atty. Arroyo with Abalos, Jimmy Paz, Quirino de la Torre, Ruben Reyes and Leo San Miguel.

Estrada: What were exact words Atty. Arroyo told you?

“Back off,” says JDV3.

Estrada: “Back off” were exact words? In presence of Abalos, etc? I have a waiter friend there, can you demonstrate how it was done?

JDV3: May I use seatmate as model? (giggle) shoves finger in face of Suplico and yells, “Back off!!”

And also, here, my account seems OK, too:

Santiago: I am not interested in that project. For record China invented civilization in the East, but they also invented corruption that’s why these Chinese like inviting people to golf, etc. As officials we know we’re being invited not for our good looks… On record, let me put it on record: I resent being made party to this squabble! You’re just fighting over kickbacks! You’re wasting Senate time! (Santiago leaves Senate)

11:13 Cayetano: Noted.

Speaking of these liveblogging efforts, please refer to Achieving Happiness who also covered the hearing. And Rasheed Abou-Alsamh points out something we should bear in mind:

It is not that often that people in developing countries get to see non-elected government officials squirm on live television while they are relentlessly grilled by elected representatives of the people. And it is a scene that I have never seen happen in an Arab country.

You know, anything can be liveblogged, check out Jalajala Rizal liveblogging a fiesta.

Meanwhile, Carmen Pedrosa continues to find every which way to keep justifying her recent trip to Burma and thus, her role in coddling the junta.

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  1. Re: “I have nothing more to say on broadband deal” –Neri.

    Nothing more to say? Have they chopped off his tongue too?

    • ramrod on October 1, 2007 at 8:32 am

    We officially open at 9am si i still have time to read and contribute to this blog.

    I honestly want to know whats going on inside GMA’s mind right now. The way I profile her is that she is your typical daddy’s girl always trying to please by coming home with stars on her hands and kindergarten drawings. Eventually evolved into bringing home straight As and perhaps medals, etc. She probably grew up (or not) working really hard to overcompensate for an apparent disparity from the way we look at ideal women by looking smart, sounding smart, and telling everybody about it the way valedictorians do in their speeched during graduations. Now, she’s the president and all grown up (still not) its a series of valedictory addresses again, but this time this is real life and things don’t stop after the speech. But this is putting things simply.
    What is more important are her intentions, her motives.
    I for one, in a past life have sold my soul to the devil in order to close high level deals just to see to it that my company survives, to get the budget to pay for employees and ensure that their families survive for another year, next year is another story.
    What if in her quest for achievement she did the same thing? In her quest for more jobs, she saw rapid development of infrastructure, in her quest for access to updated technology, she went for the NBN broadband deal (no matter what the consequence), (which by the way Mar Roxas referred to as a mere “intercom” really showed his ignorance). At times, because of experience I am slow to condemn people who are given the opportunity to lead, to have the survival, the future of people dependent on your capability to produce results (and fast).
    I am not above if its in the interest of getting a big account/deal and seeing the joy in my people’s faces entails jumping off a perfectly good plane thousands of feet it the air, foolishly go down a steep ravine on a dare, sink to the depths of the sea, fight off an extremely strong wriggling, jumping, sea monster, endure the fatigue of climbing the highest mountain (or so it seems), and inspite of an optical handicap attempt to hit a small white projectile around two inches in diameter into a hole more than a hundred yards away. Add daring to go to dark, cold, places and gearing up your stomach to survive the sight of ill dressed women writhing in pain while all around are sounds of bacchanalian decadence.
    Of course I’m talking about skydiving, rapelling, scuba diving in Tubataha, Marlin fishing, climbing Mt. Apo, playing golf, and a night in Pegasus.
    My point is, my intentions were good…

  2. Manolo, delayed thank you the live blogging of the Senate hearings. What a big help!

  3. Agree! The Senate must not do a Neri.

    • Arbet on October 1, 2007 at 9:16 am

    My column today,Should thuggery trump secrecy?…

    Wrong link?

  4. It’s spilling; here’s Jarius Bondoc:

    “…Romy bared many frightening things when he called me morning of Apr. 20. I had written that the government was rushing to award the ZTE contract the next day in Boao, China, and that the NEDA, which he headed then, had approved the overpriced telecoms supply in a huff. Before I could ask anything, Romy blurted three items in succession: “This deal was the handiwork of Ricky Razon and Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos … I warned President Arroyo about this, and also told Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. … Abalos tried to bribe me P200 million.”

    I was stunned, and asked him to start over again by answering some basic questions. Like, how the NEDA got involved in this, and why a build-operate-transfer project suddenly became a negotiated supply purchase. He said “NEDA had to make an evaluation any which way.” Too, the law “allows the President to waive ODA (overseas development assistance) rules in a bilateral or government-to-government agreement.” He stressed that NEDA had no capacity to determine any overpricing, then explained the three steps in any NEDA project review.

    Three times Romy repeated he had warned Arroyo about the deal. He told her about the bribe offer, and she allegedly replied “then don’t accept it, but work on the approvals just the same.” He said Arroyo kept blaming Joey for the mess that was then brewing.

    The culprits in this deal, he said, are “ZTE Corp., Razon, Abalos — and one more….” When I asked why his NEDA approved the ZTE proposal when he knew all along it was stinky, he said, “GMA was pushing it, and it’s our job to process.” With pain in his voice, Romy said he had almost resigned the day before.

    “My life is in your hands,” Romy cautioned towards the end. He said Abalos had wiretapped one of his staff, and Razon had once threatened him at a cocktail party hosted by the Speaker…”

    Here’s the link: http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Opinion&p=49&type=2&sec=25&aid=20070930131

  5. see jarius bondoc’s column today at the star. he is telling all that neri told him. grabe

    • BrianB on October 1, 2007 at 11:02 am

    OF ZTE

    With Senators being useless about acquiring facts, this is where it all boils down to: spin. It’s amazing that Pinoys don’t only need the three Rs to get somewhere in life. They also need the ability to keep their heads above all the bull shit.

    • BrianB on October 1, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Good for Bondoc. I’ve been thinking that Abalos could be another Chavit, but Bondoc might just have a better idea how to solve this problem: sincerity.

    • indoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 11:12 am

    gibraltar:

    lyeah, read bondoc’s article, too. i wonder why mlq3 did not give due attention of it in here.

    bondoc has pointed to lord voldemort’s participation, calling “he who shall not be named” as “one more”.

    • ramrod on October 1, 2007 at 11:49 am

    I read Bondoc’s article also but I have a different view. What Neri told him was in confidence and he should not have revealed anything without Neri’s expressed permission. I doubt his motives are anything but selfish ambition…it was irresponsible for him to put Neri’s life in peril just for an uncorroborated story. Unless he uses himself as a shield and takes a bullet for Neri he’s just plain irresponsible.

  6. “Nothing more to say? Have they chopped off his tongue too?”

    MBW, before they chopped off his tongue, they chopped his balls off first. then they proceeded to chop off his tongue, sew tight his lips, and are now making a bargain for his soul.

    Neri could still signal for help by sign language. But man, in all this, no one has yet assured safety for his family. The guy will not talk unless we all hold a vigil at his house.

    • mlq3 on October 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm
      Author

    ellen, coming from you, that makes the carpal tunnel and backache worth it!!

    arbet, inquirer.net screwed up links to me and bernas, it’s fixed.

    inidoro, was rushing this am, have attached bondoc’s article. what he’s done is either very, very brave or very, very rash depending on your perspective. he has revealed a source without the source’s permission. this could destroy him as a journalist or even cost him his life, so it’s a brave move. personally i’m glad he decided to write it rather than hold a presscon. it makes it impossible to kill neri at this point, and that could justify the revelation. but, it could also permanently shut up neri, so it’s a gamble. a writer is often only as good as his sources and when you reveal a source, it’s a big, big move, and it will affect all writers. but jarius believes it’s for the good of the country, so… we shall see.

  7. Ramrod, agree with you on that one. what a selfish bastard. he washes his hands and says that his intention was to let Neri’s enemies know that he knows and someone else knows what Neri knows (so that its useless killing Neri). but damn, ambition rings clearly on that article. journalists with more integrity knows above all else never to print when sources are unwilling to give permission. as common sense dictates that w/o permission given, the source could just as well dispute what the journalist wrote and claim otherwise. isn’t the rule of journalism protect your sources above all else?

    Bondoc, are you blinded by ambition not to see that the admin can jz as easily off you and Neri and care less abt that other someone? and who could corroborate that someone’s story?

    stupid, stupid, stupid.

    and there was nothing substantial in that article except more allusion to rumors. he didn’t even get to hear what “explosive thing” Neri had to say.

  8. i betcha if everyone would pledge security for Neri and his family we’d hear Neri talking more. yet all Neri gets are more criticisms, threats, and taunts from both sides. poor guy. it’s so easy to damn someone when it’s not you or your family’s life on the line.

    • BrianB on October 1, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    “it makes it impossible to kill neri at this point, and that could justify the revelation. but, it could also permanently shut up neri, so it’s a gamble.”

    Where’s Benign0 to remind everybody here that everything goes in this country. Neri is either dead or alive, it depends on where you’re standing.

    Bondoc’s column needs to be amplified and Inquirer should do its part.

    • BrianB on October 1, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Devil, if Neri doesn’t categorically deny speaking those things to Bondoc, people must believe it.

    Neri’s single. No wife and children. So maybe he doesn’t have a suicide taste’s for spilling the beans on powerful people, but integrity alone should force his mouth open. I was surprised he didn’t explode in the Senate with Andaya poking at him every sof often.

    • mlq3 on October 1, 2007 at 12:29 pm
      Author

    devils, the problem for neri is this. he is basically under psg custody. even vigil won’t do anything except keep neri from getting any sleep; it won’t result in the psg relinquishing custody. what neri could do, is appeal to the senate to place him under its custody, but remember, there is a congressional recess coming up, so for about a month, neri will be in the senate while everyone else is out of town.

    definitely, there is no shortage of people willing to provide a safehouse to neri, but how would he then go to one, and which one would he pick? it’s really a dilemma. since the archbishop of manila is a gma loyalist and much of the rest of the clergy is coopted, gutless, or if not, too far away to be of any help (the gutsy clergy were the la salle brothers but loyalist alumni raised such hell they’ve had to tone down their activism; the jesuits, well, the less said, the better), he can’t hide in a convent.

    so he’s a prisoner and if the allegations of browbeating are any guide, while i personally am disappointed neri didn’t spill the beans, i can’t condemn him because really, what would anyone do in such a situation? think of the implications of his being whisked off to the pllo during lunch and the presence of andaya, if true, in the executive session -and i for one, wonder where the psg guards were the whole time.

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    mlq3,

    i agree with you, his revelations ran counter to journalism ethics. but i think the threat to his life is damn too serious to think about this now. what he is doing is writing his obituary (metaphorical, i.e. to his career, as well as probably literal) with THE TRUTH written all over it. morbid as this may sound, it’s probably jarius way of telling his readers who are after him and neri.

    brave? not quite harry potteresque. jarius cannot utter voldermort’s name just yet. “the other one” has cast a libel curse upon the mere utterance of his name. truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    it’s only neri who can break that spell.

    • ramrod on October 1, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Unless through an act of God, GMA, being at the helm of command responsibility comes out in the open and explains to all the ZTE issue,(even if she’s guilty of graft personally I will forgive her of course I don’t speak for everyone) some people will kill to keep secrets.
    I’m just genuinely concerned for Neri, I don’t know him but I see he is not built for this. I had a friend who I really know was brave, he knew how to take care of himself, but still he was gunned down and until now we don’t know what really happened – his name is John Campos. I don’t think Neri has built up that much support from people, the media, and concerned individuals – if he dies he will be forgotten and he doesn’t have to die now, later, when everything is quiet again. GMA doesn’t even need to have a hand in it, its plain to see she has no control of her people. As I said, some people will do anything to keep secrets.

  9. Manolo, I know that. that’s why i expressed my sympathy for Neri. while people like De Quiros are too easy to judge, we can’t say the same of ourselves when it is our lives on the line. you can’t know how hot it is, unless you’ve faced the fire. being that Neri’s virtualy in PSG custody, he still has some pockets of air every now and then. we should take those opportunities to accord Neri’s safety.

    im asking as well how capable the senate is (or congress for that matter) of protecting Neri when it can’t even protect the sanctity of executive session.

    Neri had the chills bcoz the moment he saw Andaya, he knew how inutile or perhaps even deplored how co-opted the senate is. if it comes to push and shove, what will Congress fight with to counter Malacanang’s force? a few measly sgt at arms? are the senators and congressmen even brave enough to force a confrontation?

    can the writ of amparo be availed even before it becomes effective? methinks now ppl will start disappearing.

    • ramrod on October 1, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Abalos just announced his resignation on ANC tv.

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    “Abalos just announced his resignation on ANC tv.”

    anak ng zteng. he pre-empted the impeachment.

    • manuelbuencamino on October 1, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I think Jarius deserves a Pulitzer.

    • leah on October 1, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    I wonder what country he will be appointed Ambassador to?

    and where did he get the money for an 80 million house as reported in the tribune?

    • manuelbuencamino on October 1, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    MLQ3,

    your column today puts the right historical perspective on the executive and senate

    • manuelbuencamino on October 1, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    and noe andaya does bear a physical resemblance to tony soprano

    • karah on October 1, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Puerile Senators, Truckload of Gossips, and Vulture-like Media

    A shipload has been talked, discussed, gossiped about this NBN (National Broadband Network) deal and its Supply Contract with the Chinese Firm ZTE. It’s obvious to say that Senators are craving for media-attention and the Media in turn are craving for “scoops.” Let me dissect the issues as succinctly and clearly as I can.

    PUZZLE 1: “Sec. may 200 ka dito.”
    Fact 1: Neri didn’t know how much was this golden “200” word. Was it in the hundreds? Was it in the thousands? Was it in the millions?
    Fact: 2: When Sen. Gordon asked what the alleged “200” was for, Neri also didn’t know. As I quote from the “liveblogging transcript”:

    “8:38 Gordon asks his question anyway. Neri asked to repeat Abalos’s offer. Gordon asks yet, you were not chagrined. There are basic courtesies, Neri replies. What was obligation in exchange for offer, Gordon asks? Neri says he doesn’t know what bribe was supposed to be in exchange for.”

    Fact 3: ABALOS, the “supposed” bagman of ZTE would in his right mind BRIBE someone who is not even remotely connected to the awarding of the CONTRACT. (Neri’s role was to approve the “project” without any influence on who will be the SUPPLY CONTRACTOR). 200 million pesos at that? Lolz. If there were persons whom ABALOS should have bribed, it should have been Sec. Leandro Mendoza (DOTC) and Asec. Formoso (TELOF) being the front-line implementers of the said project.

    Whether BRIBERY HAPPENED or NOT, this is a case of “HIS WORD AGAINST HIS WORD” which by the way is so hard to prove in Court. There’s no third party involved. There’s no way of verifying and refuting such claims by both sides. How do you resolve this dilemma, then?

    I find all of these weird and defy COMMON SENSE and SIMPLE LOGIC.

    PUZZLE 2: “Chinese Goodwill.”
    It’s a known fact that China has Foreign Reserves to date amounting to 1.2 Trillion USD. The very reason, they are giving all sorts of FOREIGN AIDS, LOANS, and GRANTS to countries, which in return can give them something. China is very aggressive in AFRICA for Minerals and Oil. It might sound cliché but “there’s no such thing as free lunch.” Each and every centavo that China (its Public and Private Sectors) that pours in the Philippines has strings attached.

    I suspect that the NBN Project, more than ZTE’s wanting to bag the project for PROFIT might be quite secondary. I deduce that the NBN Project being undertaken by a Chinese Firm (Government-owned at that) is a STRATEGIC and a TACTICAL DECISION by China to gain a Foothold not only in the Philippines but the STRATEGIC LOCATION of the PHILIPPINES vis a vis Southeast Asia. All these Security Audits (internal and third party) are mere bull#$%^.

    PUZZLE 3: “The Executive Session that was NOT.”

    During the Executive Session wherein Sec. Neri was party along with the Senators, it seems to me that it was an Executive Session that was not. Why was that a lot of gossips and rumors leaked? Whether it was an irrelevant detail or a procedural detail, “what is discussed in the executive session, must remain in the executive sessions.” I guess there are also a good number of Senators who we can consider TSISMOSO or TSISMOSA (for a male Senator I won’t name).

    Before the Executive Sessions started, I overheard that the ones who will be allowed inside would be: the Senators; Sec. Neri and his lawyer (it turned out to be Sec. Andaya); and other Senate Staff. There was even this rumor that it was Joker Arroyo who let Sec. Andaya in and be the legal counsel of Sec. Neri. Now where is this coming from? Is it mere speculation or something leaked by a MALE TSISMOSA Senator? (The heckler, maybe? Hehehe. Wanted to get even to Joker).

    Was it really an EXECUTIVE SESSION or NOT?

    PUZZLE 4: “Senators that act like toddlers with their tantrums.”

    I did not like how Pimentel and Gordon talked at Abalos in any way. Whether the person is guilty or not, a Senate Hearing is not a Prosecutor’s Office. Their personal attacks were really out of line bordering to the “kabastusan.” Whether they like or abhor Abalos, they should respect that he’s a guest in the Senate and came voluntarily. As such, they should have treated him with even a tinge of respect.

    The questioning by the Senators was either REPETITIVE or STUPID. It’s like they wanted more camera footage on them rather than preparing well and internalizing their questions. I also dislike the side comments that no less than the Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee were throwing all over the place. These people I suppose are lawyers and professionals but I don’t think they were taught GOOD MANNERS in Kindergarten.

    PUZZLE 5: “Neri was supposed to drop a BOMB of Truth.”

    If a person is DETERMINED to tell something, he/she would not be impeded by anything or anyone. Many are comparing Neri to Chavit. Chavit went in the open out of his own free will. I don’t think that the same pressure should be put on NERI. Whether he’s got something BIG to say or not, he should be respected as a person. The problem with the PHILIPPINE MEDIA and some FILIPINOS is that they think they own the DECISION of individuals. They want to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze just to get the first crack on a scoop.

    Even the allegation that Neri had a FEVER because he was afraid Sec. Andaya was there was mere baseless speculation. What made him sick was the length he was subjected to questions and pounding by the Senators. What if a Senator takes his place and subjected to questioning for 10 hours or so, who wouldn’t get sick by that?

    On the whole, what I see are mere PUZZLES. I don’t see any CLEAR PICTURE for the simple reason that the motives behind all this are something stinky and fishy per se. Look at JDV3; if he bagged the said contract, would he have come out in the open? I don’t think so. He’s a sore LOSER. Where are the witnesses that LACSON and ESTRADA are bragging about that would shed light on the said incident in Wack-Wack on an insider that knew about the ZTE deal? These are all mere lip service.

    Down the line, it’s the PUBLIC that’s the victim of this entire circus.

    • justice in waiting on October 1, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Abalos announced his Resignation from the Comelec, but his resignation doesn’t bring any closure to the allegations and until a thorough inquiry into his involvement in the so-called “anomalous” activities is undertaken and a conclusive findings have been arrived, these shenanigans will be filed among the countless unresolved “msyteries” that are the norm in the country political system of Oligarchy…and we will be ready for the next Episodes and it is getting even bolder and bigger.

    • cvj on October 1, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Neri should’ve joined the Hyatt 10 when he could. Now he’s in too deep and so his only options are to become hero, heel or martyr. He only has himself to blame for his situation since it’s naive for Civil society/technocratic-types to think they can get away playing the game with thugs. Anyway, as the saying goes, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

    • ramrod on October 1, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Karah,

    I actually see your point. This issue should have been brought to court since day 1 after thorough preparation of course. But you must agree, its sold a lot of paper and air time.
    As for China, the country is cash rich right now and the way I see it they have better chances of getting their money back with interest if they loan it outside their borders. Several industries, the paper industry for instance in China are so heavily financed by the government already but these companies are losing money by the day. One paper mill Nine Dragons became the biggest mill in the world in just 10 years of operation and still growing, surpassing European and American mills that are even a century old. We expect the bubble to burst anytime soon.
    From a business point of view, it would be to our advantage to form close economic ties with China at this time, we have more to gain. Besides, SMC is in China already. The US, with its real estate woes, and now the sub prime issue is in for a recession.
    As i said earlier, my company has already invested millions of Euros in infrastructure there already and purchased thousands of acres of plantation land. Depending on how our government will draw the contracts China is and should be our direction. But whether GMA’s administration is the right team to “make this happen” is something worth looking into. I just wish this team is more forthcoming in their intentions and plans as well as the expected outcomes and treat us as intelligent voters or more appropriate “stakeholders.”

    • grd on October 1, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    agree wit you karah. and while the guy is maybe fighting for his life, some self righteous people (including the media) watching from their cozy homes are just so insensitive hurling invectives at the poor guy. too quick to praise and condemn. human nature?

  10. so cvj, ready to agree with me on the present course we and our nation are taking?

    will resignation lay a precedent to be absolved of any wrong doing in the future? naks easy get out of jail free after plundering the nation. just resign!

  11. ABALOS in an interview: I will never resign bec that is tantamount to admitting my guilt!

    does that mean he’d admitting his guilt now?

    or was he just suddenly struck with an epiphany that resigning is never an admission of guilt but rather a construct of clearing one’s name?

    • karah on October 1, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Ramrod: (a) Re: Abalos Bribery – the very reason they don’t wanna fight this out in court is for the simple reason that it’s a deadlock case (the word of Abalos against the word of Neri is a case that nobody can lose and win). (b) Re: NBN-ZTE Deal – As this issue is already with the Supreme Court, legally speaking what we can do is wait on what the highest Court would decide. Now, the motivation behind all these hearings is MEDIA MILEAGE and PUBLICITY for certain Senators who have intentions for 2010.

    China is investing heavily in Africa and also some Souteast Asian countries. Some reasons would be: (1) They need the Oil and other Raw Materials to feed their every hungry industries; (2) Strategic and Tactical reasons – they want to also boast to the world that the sleeping giant is already waking up; (3) Your reason that of putting up their money for LOAN (though with low interest but something in return). At 8% growth in 2006, they need to strengthen their Economic Fundamentals.

    The emerging Superpower these days are INDIA (with 1 Billion consumers) and CHINA (with 1.3 Billion consumers). It’s a huge, nay, a gigantic market to exploit by different companies. Russia is also recovering after the collapse of the USSR (mainly due to the Oil, Gas, and Mineral exports). Now, a Philippines having closer ties to China might send “the jitters” to Washington (knowing the animosity of the USA to China). But then again, the US is to busy in the Middle East that is loosened up its grip in Asia and CHINA is following through the pieces.

    I think that GMA has the goodwill but the problem lies in some “lack of transparency” especially to some of her Cabinet Members. Let’s say, they have nothing to hide but the way the Palace behaves on certain issues would have an impression of “concealing something.”

    • karah on October 1, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    grd Even without invitation, Chairmain Abalos came to the Senate out of his own free will to clear his name. That alone is a sign of goodwill. Whether he’s guilty of the BRIBERY and CORRUPTION CHARGES is up for the Courts to decide, not the Senate. What Pimentel and Gordon did not only demean and degrade the personhood of Abalos. It showed how LOW and ANIMALISTIC some Senators can get. It’s humiliating for me. But I guess being THICK-FACED is one of the characterisits of Public Elected Officials nowadays.

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    “ABALOS in an interview: I will never resign bec that is tantamount to admitting my guilt!”

    devils, get the source.

    his words should be immortalised in t-shirts.

    • frombelow on October 1, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    whats the fuzz about bondoc divulging neri as his source. alam naman ng lahat na siya yung source di ba? we tend to romanticize. only refuse to divulge sources when he really is unidentfifiable ( such as Deep Throat of the Watergate scandal ) pero ito alam naman natin lahat na si neri yun eh. The least is inapproproiate un sa part ni bondoc. but no big deal. let us not make a mountain…

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    what was voldermort doing abroad? seeking for the elder wand?

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    and shouldn’t neri be resigning as well? by approving the broadband deal amidst gma’s hear no evil, speak no evil stance, he has already diminished the credibility of neda as an independent assessment body.

  12. ine, i can’t remember where and i cnt even quote his exact words. am just telling what i remember. it’s probably in inquirer and everywhere else.

  13. sinisiraan na ba ng manila standard today si neri as jdv’s puppet as early as dec. 11, 2006?

    http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=jojoRobles_dec11_2006

    • inodoro ni emilie on October 1, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    ah, the beauty of google. devils, here:

    http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:pAd5pvC6feAJ:www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20070929104304.html+abalos+resign+guilt&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=6&gl=au

    • Willy on October 1, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Heard over radio 630AM:

    Habang nasa golf cart silang dalawa…

    Abalos: Sec me dalawan daan ka dito.
    Neri: Huh? Anong dalawang daan?
    Abalos: Isang daan pakaliwa, isang daan pakanan. So, dalawang daan.
    Neri: Yoko nga. Sa datingdaan ako.

    • ramrod on October 1, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    frombelow,

    Its not a matter of Bondoc divulging his source only, its divulging what Neri told him in confidence without expressed permission and without corroboration. I’m not a mediaman but in a corporate setting this is “rumor mongering.” There might be others involved who will not take kindly to being exposed, men have been known to disappear for lesser money involved.

    • ramrod on October 1, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    inodoro ni emilie,

    There are times when executives make decisions that may “cross the line that must no be crossed” the boss is aware of this but there is an agreement that if he/she gets caught he’s on his own. This is called “plausible deniability” and happens everywhere, some business deals just fall inside the realm of gray areas but need to be done for the the good of the whole organization, it just depends on the intention of the “boss” really.

  14. willy, nice joke.

    it can also be said…

    abalos: sec may 200 k d2.
    neri: anong 200?
    abalos: 200 pag nag hole in one ako. ano pupusta ka?

  15. in fairness to mr. bondoc, he is finally facing himself in the mirror, devoid of all the hats and suits that all made ourselves wear. and what he saw is the truth. irrespective of considerations. the same truth we all want to see – the emperor has no clothes! and people wearing hats and suits will criticize and condemn, what’s new? “someone tried to say it, but we nailed him to a cross”???

    • frombelow on October 1, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    ramrod,

    ” it’s not a matter of Bondoc divulging his source only, its divulging what Neri told him in confidence…I am not a mediaman but in corporate setting… Ramrod.

    So you are not a media man. But the logic behind journalists not divulging their sources is primarily to protect them from harm, in whatever manner, once they become identified. Other reason is that the source might clam up. Propriety is the least of the reason.

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