Press Release
February 20, 2008


Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged the Senate to avail of the country's Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with Hong Kong to compel its government authorities to help the Philippine government in obtaining information in connection with the ongoing probe on the national broadband controversy.

Pimentel came up with the suggestion in view of the refusal of ZTE Corporation, a listed company in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, to cooperate in the Senate inquiry into the alleged overpricing of the $329 million national broadband network contract awarded to China's ZTE Corp.

Acting on Pimentel's motion, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Trade and Commerce Committee and Defense Committee approved the issuance of a subpoena to Yu Yong, ZTE president, as well as Ms. Fan Yang, commercial attaché of the Chinese embassy in Manila, to compel them to attend of the next hearing on the NBN-ZTE issue.

Pimentel said that aside from the alleged overpricing, Yu Yong will be asked by the senators about the alleged role of former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos in the telecommunications deal.

Businessman Jose de Venecia, III claimed that Abalos acted as broker of the deal and tried to bribe him and former National Economic Development Authority director general Romulo Neri to facilitate approval of the ZTE project proposal by the Arroyo government.

The bribe attempts were confirmed by Neri's consultant, Rodolfo Lozada, Jr.

"I think it is not good for our people to see that we are only running after the crooks in our government, and not after those foreigners who are corrupting them," Pimentel said.

"In other words, the ZTE will be given all the chances to show that the contract is above-board. But let us not give them the pleasure of ignoring our invitation on the pretext that they have no address here."

"Let us proceed and issue a subpoena to Mr. Yu Yong, if he cannot be reached, then this committee should write the bourse in Hong Kong to delist the ZTE from its list of shareholders through which ZTE stocks are being sold internationally," he said.

"We can invoke our rights with the Hong Kong authorities. We have a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Hong Kong. We can invoke that and ask them to give us all the information about the ZTE president and so we can have jurisdiction over his person and compel him to testify."

In the case of Ms. Fan Yang, Pimentel said the Chinese commercial attaché was mentioned by many witnesses as having been present during the series of meetings between ZTE officials and Abalos on the NBN-ZTE deal.

He said that since Fan Yang is a diplomat who enjoys certain immunities, she should be invited formally. But if she ignores the invitation, she should be declared persona non grata, the senator added.

In asking that the Yu Yong and Fan Yang present their side of the NBN-ZTE mess, Pimentel said it is important to show to the Filipino people that "we do not only run after local crooks but also a foreigners who try to corrupt our people."

Otherwise, Pimentel said the Transparency International will continue to portray Philippine officials are corrupt without saying that foreigners are corrupting them.

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