Press Release
February 24, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo' belated defense of herself in the national broadband controversy is weak and only betrays her poor sense of judgment and responsibility in preventing irregularities in government projects.

Pimentel said the President, by her own revelation, was told by a person she did not identify about the serious flaws in the $329 million national broadband network contract granted to China's ZTE Corp. on the eve of her trip to Boao, China to witness the signing of the ZTE-NBN deal and other bilateral agreements in April, 2007.

And yet, Pimentel said Mrs. Arroyo did not lift a finger to stop or suspend the questionable contract at that time. He said the President, by her act of omission, seemed unmindful of the harm that will be inflicted on the government by such a grossly anomalous deal.

"What GMA did or did not do after she learned that something was wrong with the ZTE-NBN deal on the eve of its signing is the smoking gun that links her to the scandal," he said.

"That's also what Secretary Romulo Neri doesn't want to supply."

Pimentel said the President's revelation clearly belies the claim of Neri, chairman of the Commission on Higher Education, that he had nothing more to say about the ZTE-NBN scandal as his justification for repeatedly ignoring the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's summons for him to return to the witness stand.

He said the President's mishandling of the national broadband project was first unraveled when Neri, as then director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, reported to her the alleged attempt of then Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos to bribe him with P200 million in exchange for the endorsement of the ZTE-NBN project by the NEDA-Investment Coordinating Committee. Testimonies obtained during the Senate hearings indicated that President did not act to have the alleged bribery try investigated.

Pimentel said the President has yet to explain why she deviated from her position to have the NBN project done through the build-operate and transfer scheme that will entail no expense on the part of the government. Instead, the President approved the proposal to finance the project from loans that the Philippine government will secure from China's Export-Import Bank.

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