, AUGUST 29, 2007 (STAR) Opposition Rep. Carlos Padilla tagged yesterday Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos as the poll official who was alleged to have lobbied for the ZTE broadband contract and received cash and lavish gifts – including women – in China in return.

Padilla said it was Abalos himself who was alluded to by The STAR columnist Jarius Bondoc in a recent column.

He said Abalos was the conduit of the Chinese telecommunications firm in bagging the $330-million broadband contract.

“Mr. Speaker, my own information shows this high Comelec official is no less than chairman Abalos himself,” the Nueva Vizcaya congressman declared in a privilege speech that he was supposed to deliver last night.

Padilla said Abalos’ eight “unofficial trips” to Shenzhen, China, from September 2006 to February 2007, shouldered by ZTE, “can hardly be characterized as just friendly and totally innocuous.”

“He was a man on a mission. And what a big mission it was – approximately P15 billion ($329 million) of it,” he added. He also urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to conduct an in-depth investigation on the matter.

“Congress must therefore look into this fiasco. Some people are about to get rich again at the expense of the Filipino people. This cannot be countenanced. Congress must do all it can to stop this,” Padilla stressed.

He said Abalos actually had no business with such broadband networks, but his “pointman” in the Department of Transportation and Communications, assistant secretary Lorenzo Formoso, is Comelec’s official on poll computerization.

Padilla said ZTE apparently “knew” who to deal with, as Abalos wields enormous influence over politicians from both sides of the political fence.

“ZTE Corp. did a very good research on what buttons to push in the Philippines. Abalos was about to preside over the holding of the 2007 elections, and who has such power over the administration except the man who will be running the elections?” he said.

“It was unclear why Abalos was seen playing golf with officials of ZTE Corp. at a golf club in Mandaluyong City and in Shenzhen, China. Obviously, this was more than a mere coincidence,” Padilla added.

Meanwhile, three Comelec officials asked Bondoc to name their colleague who allegedly lobbied for the controversial ZTE broadband deal in China in exchange for cash and sex and days and nights of “debauchery.”

Comelec Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Florentino Tuason and Nicodemo Ferrer said that Bondoc should “name names” in the interest of fairness.

“Bondoc should name names in fairness to all of us,” Tuason said in an ambush interview. Sarmiento and Ferrer voiced the same sentiment.

Sarmiento noted that to “ferret out the truth,” Bondoc should unmask such official.

“To set the record straight, a name should be mentioned for the benefit of the people,” he said. – Delon Porcalla, Sheila Crisostomo

DOTC,  ZTE  EXECS  FACE  GRAFT  RAPS (STAR) By Delon Porcalla AUGUST 29, 2007

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and two of his deputies, along with four Chinese executives were charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday.

Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla said he filed the charges against Mendoza, Transportation Assistant Secretaries Lorenzo Formoso and Elmer Soneja, and Hou Weigi, ZTE Corp. chairman; Yu Yong, vice president; George Zhu Ying, chief Manila representative; and Fan Yang, executive director.

“I asked the Ombudsman to immediately punish Secretary Mendoza and his co-respondents,” he said. “They have done the nation a disservice.”

Padilla said graft was committed when the Department of Transportation and Communications “unilaterally awarded” the $330-million broadband project to Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE.

“The officials I have charged before the Ombudsman, including the officials of ZTE, are liable for misleading the public and executing this anomalous contract and should be punished accordingly,” he said.

Padilla said Mendoza and his co-respondents violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Telecommunications Policy Act, the Build-Operate-Transfer Act, and the Government Procurement Act.

“There was no bidding done for this project, and under the law, all telecommunications projects of the national government have to be bidded out,” he said.

“In this case, all aspects of the contract are suspicious because this has been kept under wraps.”

The Department of Justice has become a “laughingstock” in government circles in light of its legal opinion favoring the ZTE project, when the DOTC did not even give the DOJ a copy of the contract in question, Padilla said.

On the other hand, Mendoza said yesterday he will welcome the filing of a case in court to put the matter before the proper forum and put an end to the issue.

“We are now working with the Office of the Solicitor General to finalize our comments on the case,” he said.

“In view of the SC taking cognizance of the case, the matter is now considered sub-judice, which means that the case is now in the hands of the court.”

Mendoza said the National Broadband Network is a government project aimed at delivering services directly to the people with the use of information and communications technology.

“It will build a fully integrated, single Internet Protocol (IP)-based platform, nationwide broadband network to allow seamless voice, data, and video connectivity within and among national, regional, and local government agencies,” he said.

“It aims to make voice and data communications of the government more efficient, resulting in savings in communications expenses, Internet access, Internet capacity, and operation and maintenance in the long run.” – with Rainier Allan Ronda

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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