Press Release
May 24, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the testimony of former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. on the national broadband network-ZTE controversy will be "meaningful" in helping unravel the truth but he should be prepared to face the risks for doing so.

Pimentel backed the plan of the Joint Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to invite De Venecia to shed light on what really transpired in the meeting between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and top executives of ZTE Corp. during a visit to the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, China on Nov. 2, 2006.

The then speaker of the House of Representatives confirmed that he was present during that meeting as a member of the presidential party that journeyed to Shenzhen upon the invitation of ZTE.

"For all his faults, Joe de Venecia's appearance before the Blue Ribbon Committee, if he tells the truth, will be meaningful because he was one of those deeply involved in the negotiation with the ZTE. And therefore, he can very well spill the beans on the involvement of other people, including the President," Pimentel said.

De Venecia is being dissuaded by some administration senators from testifying, as they warned that it could backfire on him especially in the light of his involvement in the negotiation with the Chinese government for the financing of another venture, the $500 million North Rail Project.

"That is the risk that he will have to take, obviously. That's up to him to decide," Pimentel said.

"The moment JDV appears before the Senate, anything goes," he remarked in view of allegations that the former Speaker too was involved in the NBN-ZTE deal and the likelihood that he will be grilled by the senators on his involvement in the North Rail Project.

"He will be treated with respect as befits his status as a senior solon. But there is no limiting the senators in inquiring the many other topics that would have some connection anyway with ZTE because if projects that were later on entered into by the government that are outside of the scope of the ZTE but were taken up during the negotiations with ZTE, these could be legitimate matters that may warrant investigation by the Blue Ribbon Committee in the same hearing.

Pimentel stressed that if De Venecia balks from testifying and opts to seal his lips on what he knows about the NBN-ZTE deal, it would not be in keeping with his pledge to expose wrongdoing in the administration and lead a moral revolution.

"JDV will have to be judged by history, not only by me. So I guess he will have to seriously consider the net effect of his avoidance of appearing before the Senate."

Pimentel also debunked the assertion of Malacañang that there was nothing inappropriate in the visit of President Arroyo, together with First Gentleman Juan Miguel Arroyo, to the ZTE headquarters and her meeting with the ZTE executives.

"If we are talking of the President's meeting with the ZTE officials as a routine engagement of the President, you may say there's nothing wrong with it. But you have to consider the circumstances under which the meeting took place," he said.

At that time, the public bidding of the NBN project was underway and the ZTE Corp. was only one of the interested bidders.

News Latest News Feed