MANILA, SEPTEMBER 13, 2007 (STAR) By Jess Diaz - President Arroyo has prevented Trade Secretary Peter Favila from appearing in the House of Representatives to shed light on the controversial $330-million national broadband network (NBN) deal and the bigger $466-million cyber education project (CEP).

In a letter to Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. dated last Tuesday, Favila said “the President has not granted the undersigned permission to attend the (House) Question Hour in accordance with Section 22, Article VI of the Constitution.”

According to administration officials, Section 22 requires Cabinet members to obtain presidential consent before appearing in the House or Senate Question Hour.

Upon the request of the House minority bloc, De Venecia has invited Favila to answer questions about the two NBN and CEP deals in the House Question Hour that was supposed to be held yesterday. Congressmen, however, did not hold session yesterday.

Opposition Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, principal proponent of the Question Hour on NBN and CEP, said the cancellation of the session was not related to the conviction of former President Joseph Estrada.

“The House leadership scrapped the session because President Arroyo did not want Favila to shed light on NBN and CEP. This is consistent with the administration’s policy of lack of transparency on these shady deals and other big transactions,” he said.

He said Malacańang’s legal advisers are “misinterpreting Section 22 to suit their interest.”

“Presidential consent is needed only when a Cabinet member volunteers to appear in the House or Senate Question Hour. It is not needed when either chamber invites such Cabinet member,” he added.

Though he was not permitted to appear in the Question Hour, Favila, however, may still be asked about NBN and CEP in today’s budget hearing on his agency’s budget for 2008.

Secretary Leandro Mendoza of the Department of Transportation and Communications, who is at the center of the NBN controversy, may also be grilled about the deal.

Mendoza was the one who signed the contract with the Chinese firm ZTE Corp. with no less than President Arroyo as witness during her brief trip to Boao, China last April 21.

The government intends to fund the two controversial projects with loans from China. – With Paolo Romero

Lapus: CyberEd project transparent unlike ZTE deal By Rainier Allan Ronda Thursday, September 13, 2007

(STAR) Education Secretary Jesli Lapus yesterday said the Department of Education’s P26.48 billion CyberEducation (CyberEd) project is entirely different from the Department of Transportation and Communication’s highly controversial US$330 million national broadband network (NBN) project.

Lapus made the statement amid concerns raised by some sectors that the multi-billion CyberEd program was anomalous like its supposed “twin” government project, the NBN deal.

Lapus said that unlike the NBN project, the DepEd was transparent on their CyberEd project and that it was even launched last July.

He pointed out that DepEd has been briefing legislators from both Houses of Congress about Cyber Ed in a bid to drum up support for it.

Lapus also said that unlike the NBN deal forged by DOTC and ZTE Corp., DepEd has not yet signed a contract with the Tsinghua Tongfang Nuctech Co., the Chinese company tapped by the People’s Republic of China (PROC) to undertake the project.

What was only signed, he said, was a memorandum of agreement between the Philippines and the PROC for the latter’s extension of a loan to the Philippines for it to establish information technology (IT) distance education in the country.

The PROC loan is said to be a “tied” loan which means that the contractor that will undertake the project will be from the loan donor’s country and identified by the donor government.

It will be recalled that DOTC officials led by Secretary Leandro Mendoza and his subordinates had avoided discussing the supply contract it signed with ZTE Corp. that was stolen days after it was signed.

Lapus said that in the case of CyberEd, it’s too early to say that there is an overpricing since there is still no contract signed by the DepEd with the Tsinghua Tongfang Nuctech Co.

Lapus said that the P26.48 billion price tag for the project was just the budget ceiling agreed upon by the Chinese government and the Philippine government.

“It’s just a ‘cap’,” Lapus said.

Lapus added that the details in setting up the whole system will still be discussed.

The CyberEd project aims to use satellite technology to connect the DepEd central office, the different regional offices and division offices, and most importantly, the target 37,794 public elementary and secondary schools to enable the delivery of high quality digital and interactive education.

The satellite technology, DepEd said, will link the schools to a nationwide network that provides 12 video channels, wireless wide area networking, local

area networking and even wireless Internet connectivity.

The link will then be used by DepEd to deliver lessons or modules from DepEd’s best teachers in the different subjects to public elementary and high schools, including those in far-flung areas.

With this setup, DepEd said they can solve the problem of delivering quality education that is available in “model” public school to the others.

Lapus further said the program will allow the Philippines to join its Asian neighbors in harnessing state-of-the-art information communications technology to advance education among their children.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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