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Oct 04

Good to the last crumb

Updates 5:45 pm: Senate panel sets new ZTE hearing on Oct. 25 and Cayetano denies Razon pressure on ZTE issue

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My column today, In this corner, took its title from the name of Arsenio Lacson’s famous column, and borrowed a line from the great Arsenic himself. The boxing metaphor was courtesy of Uniffors.

Senators are getting hammered: NBN deal probe in limbo? Tycoon said to be meddling in investigation. As for the tycoon, Razon breaks silence, says too busy for ZTE deal (see also Business tycoon denies ZTE link and Businessman slams Neri, Joey for linking him to scandal).

Going back to the senators under fire, Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano says that while the senators are away, the staff won’t play. They’ll be busy, busy little bees: Senate to continue ZTE mess investigation ‘off-cam’ – solon. Fair enough. Anyway, SC to continue hearing ZTE: now how that turns out can affect political calculations of either side, too.

And to recover lost ground, Alan Cayetano to move for disclosure of Neri’s exec session with Senate.

It’s not true that Benjamin Abalos hasn’t resigned (by the way, Lito Banayo has an interesting account of the political math that resulted in that resignation). He’s quit, but his being on terminal leave, as someone familiar with the bureaucracy explained it to me, means “he can still claim his leave credits from the Comelec and perhaps even monetize it,” while another person explained the bureaucratic meaning to be, “the Comelec is still obliged to pay him the remainder of his salary and benefits.” Oist, Chairman, may 200 pa diyan… in vacation pay. (update, this afternoon) Actually, a congressman just informed me that the retirement pay/benefits for a Comelec Chairman is 15 million Pesos (!)

Anyway, apropos of Abalos, Lawyer says ‘mystery man’ behind Neri, JDV III:

Villareal said this was after he got hold of some documents on Wednesday that reveal the involvement of politicians and government officials in a conspiracy to pin Abalos in the controversial NBN deal, which was scrapped by President Arroyo.

“On Wednesday I was able to get hold of documents that say there are people behind Joey de Venecia and Romy Neri. So we revised the draft of the charge, and we are now drafting a jumbo suit,” Villareal told DZMM.

Asked to identify the politicians, Villareal said one of them is a “big fish.” He said the name of the politicians and government officials behind Neri and de Venecia will be revealed once they file the “jumbo suit” anytime next week.

The big tuna most likely will be the Speaker himself. But Yoda says, strong the force is: De Venecia: I’m watching my back.

As I mentioned yesterday, the national budget is where the House can give the Palace a thorough grilling: when the Appropriations Committee chairman speaks, it’s like a declaration of open season in the hunting grounds: House panel okays changes to social-service outlays. And so, Hike in unprogrammed Palace funds questioned. Or maybe, instead of a thorough grilling, all that can be accomplished is just a slight toasting: House may only touch 23% of P1.2-T nat’l budget.

Meanwhile, Palace denies feeling pressure. But even as Palace mulls new NBN project, and clarifies that $460-M Cyber Education deal not scrapped, private groups engage in their own diplomacy: China prodded on transparency: Beijing’s assurances welcomed given Arroyo administration’s recalcitrance.

Oh, but Expect More ZTE-Like Scandals.

There’s news that Central bank incurs losses on strong peso.

Manuel Buencamino says the President is like Marcos in his last days in power: incontinent. Ellen Tordesillas says the Chief of Staff’s being a jerk.

Tony Lopez says the cost of doing business is going up, red tape is increasing. The Business Mirror editorial looks at companies that have staked out claims to wind power sites, but haven’t done any actual investing.

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15 comments

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  1. GPS

    Abalos resignation after all is just a ploy. Some wise guy in Malacanang tells us that Abalos is just on leave. There is no resignation paper tendered, accepted and approved.Resignation thru the media is not enough unless an official resignation paper is shown by Abalos. The House of Representatives were made to believe that the impeachment of Abalos is now “moot and academic” because of the “implied” resignation, hence the decision to call it off. If a case will be filed today at the Ombudsman, it will be dismissed due to the “immunity” of the Comelec chairman, remember he did not formally resign. So, Abalos will be dodging the impeachment complaint against him and at the same time be immuned from any lawsuit while he is buying some precious time for the team to clean up the mess, the first step of which is right now being done in China.

  2. Jon Mariano

    Not true GPS, once you’re resigned you’re resigned unless you make bawi! Look at Erap, he didn’t sign any resignation letter but the Supreme Court said he “constructively” resigned.

  3. TDC

    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=94630

    Senator Cayetano and Senate President Villar:”deal or no deal” time again with Malacanang
    !!

    No NBN hearings on the pretext that the senators are going on an IPU conference in Geneva.

    The reason Gloria Pidal survives is she knows the price of each “oppositionist” senator.ay naku!

  4. GPS

    Jon,
    The “constructive resignation” decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Erap cannot be use in the case of Abalos. The President appoints the chairman and the commissioners of Comelec, how will the President know if there is a vacancy ( in this case the chairmanship), the President cannot use as proof and basis some media reports and television footages. The Chairman must make his resignation official (put it in writing)for it to become a legal document and serve as the basis of the President in appointing a new chairman.

  5. justice in waiting

    But did the President refuse Abalos Resignation? Right now, I bet nobody knows if Gloria Arroyo accepted or refused the Resignation. Words are just as good as written resignation (can be formalized in writing later if needed, anyone can resign even by just phoning.) and the President silence without expressing refusal to accept Abalos resignation is tantamount to acceptance…

  6. Manila Bay Watch

    Like Marcos on his last days?

    Well not surprised why Arroyo now wants a law to protect “military secrets” all of a sudden!

    Inquirer reports Arroyo wants law to protect military secrets

    The Inquirer reports that Mrs Arroyo has just ordered the AFP and the DND to help craft laws that will safeguard “military secrets” just as the Senate probes were getting underway into allegations that the military wiretapped Arroyo’s phone and other personalities during the 2004 election period that has come to be known as the “Hello Garci” scandal.

    Perhaps, this is the reason why the AFP has repeatedly snubbed Senate summons for top military brass to appear before the “Hello Garci” hearings. They have been crafting this plan all along!

    Three things come to my mind right off the bat on why Arroyo wants a law crafted that will “protect military secret” — never mind if we don’t have a law yet to that effect as in other countries where certain military secrets are covered by secret service acts approved by Parliament in the case of European countries and Congress in the US, but what is strange is that Arroyo suddenly turns around after years at the helm just when the probes into the election cheatings in 2004 are going full blast today.

  7. GPS

    Sergio Apostol announced that Abalos is just taking a leave of absence.It could mean a lot of things.

    1. The President refuses to accept the formal resignation of Abalos ( if ever there is one)so it gives way to the two pronged reason I mentioned, dodging the impeachment and availing of the immunity from lawsuit for the meantime.Abalos is silent about Apostol’s declaration he is not contravening it.

    2. It is unconstitutional to appoint or designate any commissioner in a temporary or acting capacity.The designation of Borra as OIC will be questioned if the Chairman is deemed resigned but it will be perfectly legal if the Chairman is just taking a leave of absence.

    3. The President for whatever reason or expediency will appoint someone that has her “trust and confidence” but for now there are no takers mainly because the newly appointed Chairman will just be serving the unexpired term of his predecessor(Abalos will be retiring early 2008). This is perhaps the reason why Supreme Court Justice Dante Tinga is not interested if ever he will be chosen right now to replace Abalos.Hence, the theory of “implied resignation” is plausible.

  8. professional dilettante

    A cynical interpretation of the story so far….

    Some of the ZTE/NBN kickback was part of the payment to the recently resigned for the 2007 elections.

    Some of the “excess” funds were also earmarked to repay advances made by businessmen in the recent election campaigns.

    Think of it as a refinement of the fertilizer scam, where campaign funds are borrowed against “corruption futures”.

    One side of the coalition felt that the resigned did not deliver the required results, and therefore was not entitled to his share in ZTE/NBN. There may also be some disagreements as to how the campaign funds were spent. The word kupit springs to mind.

    Back room discussions by the coalition partners did not result in any consensus about what to do to resolve the situation.

    At this point, it is decided that he-who-is-on-terminal-leave is to be made to suffer for his failure. Proxies from that side of the coalition blow him out of the water and smash the ZTE/NBN cookie jar.

    This also sends a shot across the bows of the Ship-of-State, about the need to sit down and make a deal with its coalition partners.

    Businessmen who have advanced money for the campaign are naturally upset. This is over and beyond the obligatory campaign contributions (non-returnable) that they made. They were expecting to have these advances repaid in the next few months.

    All is not lost however. Other projects are still on track as of now.

    A deal will be reached soon. This little imbroglio will be over by Xmas.

  9. ferrum mann

    professional dilettante,
    Election donors who, as you say, “advance” campaign funds do not get paid, in return, with money.

  10. DevilsAdvc8

    Comelec en banc issued a resolution “accepting” Abalos’ resignation. remains to be seen how far the admin will twist truth again when it needs Abalos again.

    oh, i forgot! the rest of the commissioners tainted by Mega Pacific are still on!

    perhaps Merceditas will be “promoted” or “demoted” (depending on ur view) to the COMELEC. ah nightmares of nightmares! there were votes but there were no voters.

  11. grd

    is comelec a constitutional body under the office of the president?

  12. professional dilettante

    ferrum mann :

    Quite right, but they are allowed to participate in deals like ZTE/NBN . Why would our greedy officials share a piece of the pie with businessmen unless they had to?

    From:
    GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc
    Monday, October 1, 2007

    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.”

    Creative funding in April, when the campaign was running out of money?

    The initial leak to Bondoc at that time to signal that the coalition partner was unhappy about how the funds had been spent, and who the money was being spent on?

    The explicit revelations in the Senate are quite different from blind items in a newspaper column.

    I think that we may be looking at a divorce in process.

  13. Diego Torres

    It is not surprising to learn that the Bangko Sentral losses are mounting on account of a strong peso. Bangko Sentral has a very cavalier attitude keeping the peso strong and peddling the untruth that a strong peso is an indicator of a strong economy.

    I seemed to recall that salaries of senior executives and the Monetary Board were hiked back then because of profits from revaluations of the detriorating peso. Now that it has reversed…….

  14. grd

    f_ck this strong economy that they are peddling. 20% has been lost already from my hard earned dollar and just for 2 months i’ve lost another 20% due to construction materials increases on our local market (for my home improvement project). it’s too much. BS 7.5% gdp growth. #%$&@!

  15. ferrum mann

    prof. dil.,
    Razon’s ICTSI has a 25-year contract on MICT which expires in 2013. He is using his influence to either extend it for another 25 or work for a monopoly of the ports. Gloria is history in 3 years and if he has not succeeded in either way, it is perilous to ICTSI as he might not be as “close” to who might sit in Malacañang after 2010.

    Neri is a stumbling block to an all-crony monopoly of the ports (Even Poro Point is now under Chavit Singson/Ortega tie-up PPMC after muscling-out the operator PPDC there). Neri wants to introduce Regis Romero into container and bulk, Razon says, “Over my dead body”.

    More info from the blogs of maritimewatchkeeper and tongueinanew at Blogger

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