September 2006: Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company, Limited (ZTE), submits an "unsolicited proposal" to the Philippines Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) to build a National Broadband Network (NBN). The proposal calls for a government-to-government loan to fund the project. According to the ZTE proposal, the project when completed is to be turned over to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) for its operation and maintenance. ZTE is reportedly China's largest provider of telecommunications equipment and network solutions.
October 2006: The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) broaches the possibility of a National Broadband Network (NBN) deal to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The proposed National Broadband Network is to be a government-managed national communications network for landline, cellular and broadband Internet facilities for use of government agencies. The stated goal is to make intra-government communications more efficient and less expensive.
March 31, 2007: The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) announces a green light for a proposal to set up the $262-million national broadband network. The department awards the contract to ZTE, which, according to DoTC officials, is planning to build the network using money borrowed from the Chinese government. Thus the deal would not require up-front funding from the Philippine Government.
April 21, 2007: The Office of the President announces that President Arroyo stood as a witness in Boao, China to the signing of five economic and trade agreements between the Philippine government and China.
One of these agreements is on the National Broadband Network (NBN) project with ZTE. The agreement was signed by Philippine Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE Corp. Vice President Yu Yong.
(*In April 2007 the Philippine government was prohibited from signing contracts because of the then-upcoming senatorial and local elections.)
April 27, 2007: Jarius Bondoc writes in his Philippine Star column of an “unnamed COMELEC (Commission on Elections) official” who had a hand in the approval of the overpriced NBN deal.
August 29, 2007: Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla files a criminal complaint against Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and several others who sealed the $329-million deal with a Chinese firm without public bidding.
Padilla says it was COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Sr. who brokered the deal between the Philippine government and ZTE Corp. Padilla also says Abalos was seen playing golf with ZTE officials in Manila and Shenzen. He also accuses Abalos of receiving money and women in exchange for brokering the NBN deal.
Aug. 30, 2007: COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. denies Padilla’s allegations, but confirms that he and some officials of ZTE are golfing buddies. He admits that ZTE officials have paid for his trips to China.
Sept. 3, 2007: ZTE issues a press statement that that there has been “complete transparency in the proposal, evaluation, and approval of ZTE’s application for the Philippines’ NBN contract.”
Sept. 5, 2007: Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. files a resolution asking the Senate Blue-Ribbon Committee to investigate the NBN deal.
September 10, 2007: In a Senate affidavit, Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, who heads Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. (one of the losing bidders in the NBN deal) and the son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr., testifies that he was with former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. in China and that he heard Abalos "demand money" from ZTE officials. He accuses Abalos of offering him US $10-million in exchange for backing out of the NBN deal – an accusation the former Comelec chief has denied. De Venecia is the first witness to blow the whistle on the alleged anomalies surrounding the NBN-ZTE contract.
September 11: The Philippines Supreme Court issues a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the $329-million NBN contract between the Philippine government and China's ZTE based on separate certiorari suits filed by Iloilo Vice-Governor and former Representative Rolex Suplico and Joey de Venecia III.
Suplico, a former opposition congressman, alleged that the agreement was sealed without public bidding and violated the Telecoms Policy Act.
Congressman Padilla sued DOTC and ZTE officials of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Telecommunications Policy Act, the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Act and the Government Procurement Act at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Sept. 18, 2007: At the first Senate Blue-Ribbon Committee hearing on the NBN project, Joey de Venecia III testifies that First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo was the “mystery man” that pushed for the overpriced ZTE contract. Joey claims that in a meeting he had with Benjamin Abalos in Wack Wack Golf and Country Club, presidential spouse Arroyo pointed a finger to his face and told him to “back off” from the deal.
De Venecia says the $329-million broadband deal was "ridiculously overpriced" by as much as $130-million after Abalos asked for various kickbacks and advances for the project.
De Venecia says that Benjamin Abalos Sr. had wiretapped his phone and threatened to have him killed after he refused to back off from the project. He adds that Abalos also threatened Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc for informing the public of his wrongdoings.
Sept. 22, 2007: President Arroyo suspends (but does not cancel) the NBN project.
Sept. 20, 2007: At the second Senate hearing on the NBN project, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza clears First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos of lobbying for the Chinese firm ZTE Corp. to bag the $329-million NBN contract. While admitting Abalos was at the Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club at the time that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and Jose De Venecia III met in a “chance encounter,” no one else, not even Abalos, had approached him about the ZTE deal.
Next, Transportation Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso also clears Abalos of accusations of pushing for the ZTE deal. He said he met De Venecia III at Abalos’ office during which the son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. pushed for his own NBN proposal. But, he said, Abalos never made a pitch for ZTE.
While both Mendoza and Formoso cleared Abalos, the two try to pin De Venecia III for trying to use his father’s influence to bag the NBN project. Mendoza says he met the younger De Venecia at the Speaker’s house. He said De Venecia III lobbied for his proposal there.
But Joey de Venecia III counters that Mendoza was there to ask for a Lakas certificate for his (Mendoza’s) son who was then running for a congressional seat in Batangas.
September 26, 2007: Romulo Neri, former socioeconomic planning secretary and director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), tells the third Senate hearing that COMELEC Chairman Abalos Sr. had offered him P200-million (US $5-million) to approve the ZTE contract. Neri testifies that the offer occurred while they were riding on a golf cart at Wack Wack Golf & Country Club.
“Sec, may two hundred ka dito (Secretary, you have 200 here),” Neri quoted Abalos as telling him. “I was shocked because I am not used to being offered and it was quite big.”
This seems to confirm reports that the US $329-million contract for the National Broadband Network (NBN) project was tainted with attempts to bribe certain people to facilitate the approval of the project.
Neri says he mentioned the bribe offer to President Arroyo, who reportedly told him not to accept it.
After going into private executive session at the Senate, Neri then emerges and invokes executive privilege, declining to answer further questions such as whether or not he got specific orders from President Arroyo to approve the ZTE contract.
Abalos, present at the same hearing, denies Neri’s allegations and tells the senators that Neri is lying under oath. He denies brokering the deal with ZTE but confirms that he has friends in the Chinese corporation.
Sept. 27, 2007: Iloilo Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico files an impeachment complaint against Abalos. The complaint cites four major grounds—culpable violation of the Constitution; betrayal of public trust; graft and corruption; and bribery. “We are endorsing this complaint . . . public officers must be made accountable to their actions especially so in this case when the Constitution is clearly violated. It’s time we put a stop to this [anomalous kind of practice],” Suplico said at a news conference.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Abalos dismisses calls for him to resign, as he expresses high hopes legislators will not support the impeachment raps filed against him. Abalos also says in an interview with ABS-CBN that he will file a P20-million libel case against Joey de Venecia III.
October 1, 2007: Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. resigns. Abalos made the announcement at his residence in Mandaluyong City amid accusations that he brokered the national broadband network contract between Chinese supplier ZTE Corp. and the Department of Transporation and Communication. "These issues have affected me, my family and my privacy," Abalos said in a statement he read before a crowd of supporters and media. But Abalos said that his resignation was not an admission of guilt and vowed to continue the crusade to clear his name and reputation following his resignation. "I will carry on the crusade to expose these lies against this person (de Venecia)."
Oct. 2, 2007: First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo denies that he told Joey de Venecia to back off from the NBN deal.
President Arroyo, while on a state visit to China, officially cancels the NBN deal with ZTE Corp.
Oct. 25, 2007: In continued Senate testimony, Joey de Venecia III claims that Benjamin Abalos had promised First Gentleman Mike Arroyo $70 million as kickback from the NBN project.
After hearing de Venecia’s story, PNP Chief Avelino Razon reportedly swears: “Kasi yang Abalos na iyan, sinabi pa niya [Abalos] kay Mike na meron siyang $70 million dito. Hindi ito nakakalimutan ni Mike." (“That Abalos, he even told Mike that he had $70 million [from the NBN deal]. Mike hasn’t forgotten this.”)
De Venecia also says that President Arroyo allegedly asked then National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Romulo Neri why he didn’t accept a P200-million bribe in order to endorse the NBN contract with ZTE: “Hindi ako ganoong klaseng tao (I’m not that kind of person),” Neri reportedly answered. “Huwag mo na lang tanggapin pero i-approve mo ang project (Don’t accept it, but approve the project),” the President allegedly replied.
Mike Arroyo was invited to attend the hearing, but declines to attend, saying that his doctor had advised him to avoid stress due to his heart condition. His lawyer, Ruy Rondain, belies de Venecia’s statements.
October 26, 2007: House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. confirms reports that there are threats not only to the life of his son and namesake but also to his own.
"As a matter of fact, I am planning to write the President ... (to) confirm the threat," De Venecia said in a telephone interview. De Venecia made the confirmation on the eve of his son's return to the witness stand at the Senate.
The Speaker's son, Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, has reported the plot to kill him to the Makati police. Asked if he himself had received similar threats, De Venecia said, "Yes."
January 23, 2008: According to a financial analysis of official documents submitted to the Senate blue ribbon committee, the NBN-ZTE project was overpriced by almost P8 billion (US $197 million.) This was the conclusion reached by a panel of industry experts convened by businessman Jose "Joey" de Venecia III. The experts said the ZTE's $329 million (roughly P13 billion) project would cost only $132 million if based on the prices of leading telecommunications companies like the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms or Digitel. The difference is $197 million, or close to P8 billion at the current exchange rate. "This could be the overprice," said Richard Pratt, one of the experts.
Contacted for comment, Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III of the Department of Transportation and Communications said "if the panel was indeed put together by Joey de Venecia then the so-called evaluation reeks of partiality because he is part of the company that lost the deal."
Jan. 30, 2008: Philippine Forest Corp. president Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada Jr., an IT expert who allegedly knows how the ZTE contract was overpriced, flies to Hongkong two hours before the start of the Senate inquiry. The Senate orders his and Romulo Neri’s arrest for snubbing a subpoena to appear at a Senate hearing on the scrapped NBN-ZTE deal.
Lozada had been hired by former Socioeconomic and Planning Secretary Romulo Neri as a consultant on the NBN project.
Jan. 31, 2008: The Senate attempts, but fails, to arrest Romulo Neri in his office at the Commission on Higher Education because he did not report for work.
Feb. 1, 2008: The Senate sergeant-at-arms fails to arrest Neri in his house.
Feb. 5, 2008: The Supreme Court orders the Senate not to arrest Neri.
February 4, 2008: The House of Representatives votes to oust Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. from the position he has held for five consecutive three-year terms. Hours earlier, De Venecia anticipates his ouster in an impassioned speech, and in an interview with reporters says he will join the political opposition and is declaring "war" on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The orchestrated ousting was considered payback for the Speaker having supported his son Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, when the younger de Venecia implicated the President's husband First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo in the NBN scandal.
Feb. 5, 2008: Rodolfo Lozada arrives at Nino Aquino International Airport from Hongkong at 4:40 p.m., but reports and text messages circulate that airport officials have kidnapped him. Malacañang denies any involvement in Lozada’s disappearance.
It is later revealed that Lozada had been taken into police custody at the airport by Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) deputy for security retired general Angel Atutubo and by members of the Police Security and Protection Office (PSPO).
Feb. 6, 2008: Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon in the morning says he isn’t aware of Lozada’s whereabouts.
Arthur Lozada, Rodolfo’s brother, files a writ of amparo before the Supreme Court.
Arthur’s wife, Violeta, files a separate writ of habeas corpus.
Razon acknowledges later in the day that Lozada is in police custody.
February 7, 2008: Rodolfo Lozada emerges and, flanked by priests and nuns, holds a 2am press conference at LaSalle Greenhills. He says:
- He was taken into custody at the airport by unidentified men;
- Benjamin Abalos had wanted a kickback of $130 million, with $70 million meant for First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.
- Abalos had threatened to have him killed if he failed to deliver $130 million in kickbacks on the government contract.
- When he quit the project on Jan. 18, 2007, the project was priced at $262-million, but when it was approved in March 2007 the cost had already mushroomed to $329.5-million.
- He did not know the people who took him from the airport and that Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza had him fetched from the airport.
- He had been forced to sign statements to make it appear he had requested police security upon his arrival at the airport.
At 3 am after the press conference, the Senate formally takes custody of Lozada.
Feb. 8, 2008: Rodolfo Lozada appears before the Senate Blue-Ribbon Committee and testifies to the details of his departure for Hong Kong and his disappearance upon arriving. He claims:
- He had originally been brought in by Romulo Neri to assess the NBN deal, and was told to reduce the kickbacks to President Arroyo’s allies and to “moderate their greed.”
- Government authorities had sent him to Hong Kong because “they couldn’t find a legal remedy to stop the Senate” from requiring him to appear before its inquiry on the NBN deal.
- While he was in Hong Kong, Neri had called and told him to write a letter to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile requesting withdrawal of the motion to arrest him and to not drag First Gentleman Mike Arroyo into the controversy.
- Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite had prepared an ante-dated travel order to Hong Kong after his return to the Philippines.
- At the airport upon his return, men whom he did not know approached him, hauled him into a vehicle, brought him to different locations and asked him to write a letter requesting for security detail.
- He met lawyer Antonio Bautista and police officer Paul Mascarinñas in a restaurant in Libis. There, Bautista had told him to sign an antedated affidavit while Mascariñas asked him to convince his sister to sign a letter requesting for security detail.
- Former presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor told him to call a press conference to deny that he was kidnapped and to say that he has not been involved in the issue.
- He told Environment secretary Lito Atienza that he did not want to testify.
- First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and former COMELEC chairman Benjamin Abalos were indeed linked to the NBN controversy.
Feb 11, 2008: Rodolfo Lozada and government officials involved in the controversy face off in a Senate hearing:
- Lozada stresses that he was taken against his will on his arrival from Hong Kong.
- Environment Secretary Lito Atienza says he was acting on his own when he helped Lozada.
- NAIA general manager Alfonso Cusi says his office received a request Feb. 5 at 4pm from his deputy Angel Atutubo for security for Lozada filed by Senior Supt. Paul Mascariñas of the Police Security and Protection Office (PSPO) and Rodolfo Valeroso of the Aviation Security group.
- PNP Director General Avelino Razon testifies that no kidnapping or abduction had taken place because the PSPO group had been provided upon Lozada’s request.
- Senior Supt. Mascariñas says no force was used against Lozada.
- Atty. Antonio Bautista denies Lozada’s allegation and says that the affidavit he prepared was based on his conversation with Lozada in the restaurant.
- Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite says Lozada requested assistance in avoiding the Senate hearing.
February 11, 2008: During the same hearing, Lozada returns an envelope containing P50,000 to former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor. According to Lozada, Defensor had given
him the cash-filled envelope when Defensor came to see Lozada on Wednesday night at La Salle Green Hills, where Lozada and his family had sought sanctuary.
Defensor denies that he offered Lozada money to say that he was not abducted, although he eventually admits that he did advise Lozada to hold a press conference and say that he was not kidnapped.
February 12, 2008: The Makati Business Club and about other 80 groups call for President Arroyo's resignation.
Feb. 14, 2008: Senators, led by Senate President Manuel Villar and Senator Peter Cayetano (pictured here with airport logbook), go to Ninoy Aquino International Airport to trace Lozada and his escorts' route out of the airport on February 5.
Security records shown to the Senate team revealed the presence of the Presidential Security Group in restricted areas of NAIA and that PSG men were in the vehicle that drove Lozada away from the airport shortly after his arrival from Hong Kong on Feb. 5. This appears to directly connect the administration of President Arroyo to Lozada's abduction from the airport.
Feb. 14, 2008: ZTE issues a statement saying that it "has neither done anything wrong nor has it bribed anyone" to get the NBN project.
February 15: Anti-Arroyo rally is held in Makati City, the capital's financial district. An estimated 10,000 people attend. Participants include militant people’s organizations, sectoral groups, representatives of Roman Catholic Church-backed groups, civil society associations, students and professionals. The National Capital Region Police Office deployed 2,000 policemen to the event.
Feb. 16, 2008: Lozada and Abalos face off in a television special “Harapan” aired on ABS-CBN. Ninety percent of the more than 28,000 viewers and listeners who participated on a poll said Lozada is telling the truth.
Feb. 18: 2008: The Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice start their separate probes in the NBN deal. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez a classmate of the First Gentleman and a former chief legal counsel of President Arroyo, inhibits from the probe.
Meanwhile, police officers and airport personnel snub the Senate hearing, citing their right against self-incrimination.
February 18, 2008: In Senate testimony, Rodolfo Lozada Jr. said that former Socioeconomic and Planning Secretary Romulo Neri had called President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “evil” and had shown her to be at the center of the “ecosystem of corruption.”
Lozada said that Neri had considered resigning after Arroyo instructed him to endorse the $329-million National Broadband Network project despite bribery claims.
Feb 19, 2008: Lozada turns over to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee an envelope containing P500,000 hush money from Malacañang.
Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite admits having given the money.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Lozada's account about the money was "contrived" or scripted.
February 20: Former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. brands Rodolfo Lozada Jr., a "pathological liar." "Everything Lozada has been saying is scripted, including allegations that I pose a threat to his life," Abalos said.
Feb 22, 2008: Rodolfo Lozada Jr. files a case of kidnapping and attempted murder at the Department of Justice against police and government officials allegedly responsible for his abduction. Lozada named named PNP Chief Avelino Razon, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, Angel Atutubo, assistant general manager of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport; Police Security and Protection Office (PSPO) Chief Romeo Hilomen, Colonel Paul Mascariñas, PSPO assistant director; retired Senior Police Officer 4 Rodolfo Valeroso; and several John Does.
His lawyers said that they also included attempted murder based on what they saw on the NAIA CCTV camera where Atutubo made a gesture of slitting his throat while escorting Lozada.
February 23, 2008: In an interview on Radio dzRH, President Arroyo admits having been warned about irregularities in the US $329 million broadband project on the eve of signing the deal with ZTE Corp. in China last year. It is the first time Arroyo has revealed she was aware as early as April 2007 of possible corruption linked to the contract.
"Someone told me about it the night before the signing of the supply contract. That was one of many signings. But how can you cancel a deal the night before, when you are dealing with a foreign country?" Arroyo said.
February 26, 2008: In morning Senate testimony, Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite said the P500,000 he gave Rodolfo Noel Lozada through his brother came from an uncle who loaned him money to renovate his parents-in-law's house, where he and his wife were staying. But Gaite said he did not volunteer the money to Lozada, claiming that the request for funds was "initiated" by Lozada who had sent a text message to him. "This was initiated by Lozada...I believed him. I pitied him," Gaite told the Senate.
Challenged by Senators to explain the cash, Gaite said he "can't rationally justify" the reason why he gave Lozada the large amount. He said that his action "was moved by my conscience and my faith." Lozada had earlier claimed that the P500,000 was a bribe.
February 26, 2008: In afternoon Senate testimony, Dante Madriaga, a former ZTE consultant, said President Arroyo and her husband were part of the “Greedy Group plus plus” that demanded huge kickbacks which jacked up the cost of the National Broadband Network (NBN) project from $130 million to $329 million.
“From the very beginning I knew that they (First Couple) were part of it. My boss (Leo San Miguel, a former owner of Home Cable) said that ‘we are protected, nothing will block us.”
Madriaga said that China's ZTE Corp. has already advanced a total of $41 million to a "greedy group" to ensure that the government's national broadband network (NBN) contract would be given to ZTE.
Madriaga identified members of the "Greedy Group Plus Plus" as resigned poll chief Benjamin Abalos, Ruben Reyes, Leo San Miguel, retired General Quirino Dela Torre, and the "First Couple."
February 29: Huge Anti-Arroyo Interfaith rally in Makati City. Police estimated the crowd at 15,000, while rally organizers placed their own count at up to 80,000. Attendees included former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada, former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani.
March 3: Mike Arroyo appears at the Office of the Ombudsman, which is conducting a parallel investigation of the contract, to rebut the complaints filed against him.
March 4: The Philippine Supreme Court proposes a compromise that would allow former Socioeconomic and Planning Secretary Chair Romulo Neri to appear at the Senate and continue with his testimony on the NBN-ZTE controversy, pending the high court’s final ruling on the issue of executive privilege.
March 5: The Senate rejects the Supreme Court proposal which, while allowing Neri to testify at the upper chamber’s broadband investigation, barred senators from asking questions involving Neri’s 2007 conversation with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about the NBN contract.
March 5, 2008: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo revokes Executive Order 464, which banned government officials from testifying in congressional inquiries without the President’s permission.
The scrapping of EO 464 was one of the demands made by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines last week in the midst of calls for her resignation triggered by the NBN scandal.
March 11, 2008: In highly anticipated testimony, Cable TV executive Leo San Miguel appears before the Senate Blue-Ribbon Committee but denies any "direct knowledge" of kickbacks in the $329-million NBN-ZTE deal. San Miguel confirms that he was a consultant of China’s ZTE Corp., but he said his knowledge of the deal was limited to technical matters. He said he did not even coordinate with government agencies.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson was left red-faced after his much-ballyhooed surprise witness denied any insider knowledge of bribes: “You have been lying all day long up to now,” Lacson said toward the end of the 12-hour hearing. “I’m almost tempted to cite you in contempt myself. I’m trying to control myself because talking to you I know naglagay ka (you gave a bribe),” said Lacson.
Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II also said in frustration: “You were there ... but you see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil ... You were in the midst of it all, but all you say you know involved the technical side, that’s what you want us to swallow.”
“I am really sorry that you were not able to get the type of answers you wanted,” San Miguel retorted.
March 12, 2008: Senator Ping Lacson accuses Malacañang Palace of getting to Leo San Miguel through lawyer Marcelino Agana IV of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office. This supposedly caused Lacson's "surprise witness" to withhold details about the alleged kickbacks and overpricing that accompanied the NBN contract.
“Nakausap niya si Attorney Agana na siyang nasa PLLO sa Senado. Maya-maya meron siyang kausap sa telepono na Ma'am...'Yes, Ma'am idi-deny ko po' [He was able to talk to Attorney Agana of the PLLO in the Senate. Later he was on the phone with a Ma'am, saying, 'Yes, Ma'am I will deny it],” Lacson said, adding that personnel of the office of the Senate sergeant-at-arms heard the phone conversation.
March 17, 2008: The Jun Lozada Truth Caravan visits Cebu City. I attended the public forum entitled "Stand Up for the Truth" at the University of San Carlos. His talk was entitled "Lessons for our children" in which Jun admitted his own previous involvement in corruption, and suggested ways we can help our children to avoid that trap.
The visit to Cebu induces a firestorm of criticism directed at Lozada, in reaction to Lozada's charge that Cebu Archbishop Cardinal Vidal had supposedly prohibited priests in Cebu from holding masses for Lozada during his one-day visit (during the USC forum, Lozada referred to the Archdiocese of Cebu as the “Archdiocese of the Malacañang”.) Cardinal Vidal's office publicly denies the charge, and local Cebu leaders demand that Lozada publicly apologize for his comments about the Archbishop.
March 25, 2008: In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court rules that the Senate cannot arrest and force Romulo Neri to answer questions on the President's involvement in the government's controversial NBN deal with China. The decision upholds the executive privilege invoked by Neri when he appeared before the Senate on September 26, 2008.
Malacañang Palace welcomes the court's decision, but it is considered a crippling blow to the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation. "That decision really limits the power of Congress to summon and to enforce its will on resource persons and witnesses," House Speaker Prospro Nograles says in a press briefing. Senate President Manuel Villar said the ruling "prevents the truth from coming out."
March 27, 2008: The Senate indefinitely puts on hold its 13th hearing on the $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal which would have alleged "Greedy Group plus plus" bagman Ruben Reyes as the main witness.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the blue ribbon committee, says the joint inquiry had decided to suspend any hearing until the Senate has come to grips with the ramifications of the recent Supreme Court decision.
May 14, 2008: New NBN-ZTE Witness Surfaces.
According to an as-yet unidentified witness, Iloilo province's Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico says that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made an undisclosed trip to the headquarters of ZTE Corp. in Shenzhen, China, for a secret meeting with its officials on Nov. 2, 2006, five months before she witnessed the signing of the national broadband network (NBN) contract. The witness, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Abalos was also present at the golf game and at the meeting, along with the President's husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, and several other persons. The witness supported his account with pictures of the First Couple at the Shenzhen Golf Club. He said the golf club was less than two hours away from Hong Kong by car.
If confirmed, the news is a bombshell because it would be the first time that Arroyo had been tied directly to the now-cancelled NBN-ZTE deal before she signed the contract in China in April, 2007.
July 9, 2008: Romulo Neri named to head SSS.
Press Secretary Jesus Dureza announces that Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri will take over as administrator of the Social Security System starting August 1. Neri will replace Corazon de la Paz, who resigned from her post in June, citing "problems" (her integrity and competence had never been questioned; why was she replaced?)
The appointment may be viewed as a reward for Neri having refused to recount his conversations with President Arroyo in Senate testimony right after he reported the bribery attempt by former Commission on Elections Chairperson Benjamin Abalos Jr., in the failed NBN Deal. When interviewed regarding his new assignment, Neri said that he is fully capable of heading SSS and that he would keep with him whatever he knows about the Arroyo government's transactions.
The appointment also suggests that Neri, who was earlier quoted as calling Arroyo “evil”, has been brought to heel sufficiently to allow his rehabiltation in an important role as head of a fund-rich agency under an administration that is deeply enmeshed in numerous corruption scandals. Arroyo now has both the funds of SSS and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), under Arroyo loyalist Winston Garcia, at her disposal.
September 4, 2008: Supreme Court upholds Neri executive privilege.
The Philippine Supreme Court affirms its previous March 25 ruling that former socio-economic planning secretary Romulo Neri may invoke executive privilege in his refusal to tell the Senate details of his conversation with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the controversial NBN agreement. The high court says that the Senate abused its discretion in citing Neri, now president of the Social Security System, in contempt and ordering his arrest when he invoked executive privilege on the allegedly anomalous telecommunications project with China's ZTE.
The ruling seems to be an additional nail in the coffin of the Senate Blue-Ribbon Committee investigation.
August, 2009: Charges dropped.
The Office of the Ombudsman dropped graft charges against President Arroyo, saying she was immune from suit and could not be criminally charged.
The Ombudsman also dropped charges against her husband Miguel Arroyo, saying there was no evidence against him.
March 14, 2012: Arroyos indicted for NBN-ZTE graft.
The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court on Tuesday ordered the arrest of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel, and two other former officials during her incumbency for the scrapped and scandal-ridden NBN-ZTE deal.
April 11, 2012: Arroyo pleads not guilty 3 times.
Defying doctorsí advice not to go out because she had shingles, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo faced the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to corruption charges related to an overpriced deal with a Chinese telecommunications company in a criminal case against her.
To be continued.....
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