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I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

I am sorry … again

Oops, She did it again.

Gloria Arroyo has once again admitted that what everyone has been saying about her is true: that she knew there was something wrong with the NBN-ZTE deal. Only this time, unlike when she apologized for “talking to an official of the Comelec,” she isn’t exactly apologetic.

“Nagsumbong sa akin the night before the signing of the supply contract… So, papaano mo naman maka-cancel the night before, meron kang ibang bansang kausap?”

“So, tuloy iyong signing pero sa unang pagkakataon, kinausap ko kaagad iyong pangulo ng China para sabihin sa kaniya na kailangan kanselahin iyong proyekto.”

[Someone told me about me about (the allegations of corruption) the night before the signing of the supply contract. So how could the contract be cancelled, considering that we were dealing with another country?

So, we went on with the signing, but at the first opportunity, I spoke to the President of China to tell him that we needed to cancel the project.]

Incidentally, it took her about five months to cancel the project – and only after a stink had been raised about it.

Now let’s break that down.

I think she raised a valid point about how you can’t just call off a country-to-country deal at the very last minute. But it raises the question: did she really just find out the night before? If Neri et al are to be believed, there’s absolutely no way she could have found out about those allegations only the night before. Take a look at this excellent timeline from Look Up.

2007

February – Chinese firm Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) makes its own bid for the NBN project for a complete network for $300 million.

Feb. 20 – NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri requests DOTC to reconcile three projects discussed in the Cabinet — the cyber-education plan of the Department of Education (DepEd), and the competing NBN proposals of Amsterdam Holdings Inc. and ZTE Corp

March 1 – Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza CICT chairman Ramon Sales submit a report to Neri

March 14 – US company Arescom submits a proposal to supply NBN hardware to DOTC for $135 million.

March 18 – AHI officials complain in a letter to the (DOTC) of bias over the Chinese firm.

March 26 – Neri expresses reservation over the NBN project in a technical board meeting.

March 29 – The NEDA Board and its Investment Coordinating Council — composed of Cabinet members — approve the NBN project.

March 30 – Columnist Jarius Bondoc first writes about the brewing storm involving ZTE and AHI over the NBN project.

April 20 – US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney writes to NEDA chief Romulo Neri, expressing “worries” over the upcoming signing of the NBN deal with ZTE.

April 21 – The Philippines and China — through Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE Corp. vice president Yu Yong — sign a contract for the NBN project during President Arroyo’s visit to Boao, China. Total project cost is $330 million.

Even assuming that Gloria didn’t micro-manage the project, there were at least three instances prior to April 21 that she could have found out. I’m not even counting that golf-game with Neri where he said he told her about Abalos’ offer of a bribe because I don’t know when that happened. Also, you can’t discount the possibility that she simply didn’t believe Neri (hey! truth can be stranger than fiction). But the thing is, if that – combined with everything else other people were saying about the project – didn’t at least ring warning bells, she must have been dead or deaf. Or complicit. I’m not counting Kenney’s letter either, ‘coz coming in the 20th of April, it’s pretty possible that Gloria might not have had a chance to see it at all.

And even assuming Gloria was being kept out of the loop by her underlings, the only way she couldn’t have been put on the alert by Jarius Bondoc’s column is if she maintains a cordon sanitaire of ferocious efficiency.

So basically, what I’m saying is that – going by the timeline of known events – Gloria exaggerated when she said she only found out the night before. But even that exaggeration is not fatal, I think. Even if she had learned of allegations of corruption before the eve of the contract signing, it can still be argued that (1) she truly believed in the beneficiality of the contract and tried to address the allegations of corruption; or (2) she really had too little proof of corruption to justify nixing the deal with China. Either way, so many questions need to be asked and answered.

Looks bad. I can’t see how she can now avoid admitting she was complicit or, at the very least, negligent.

Of course, it can still be argued that even with a truckload of evidence, you just can’t unilaterally break off a deal with the country’s biggest trading partner. In any case, with the President’s admission, it should now be inevitable that someone get drawn and quartered. But who?

Abalos? Hardly. If all the allegations are true, he was a fixer, nothing more. His liability would go all the way up the dizzying heights of …. bribery. Pfft.

Neri? Very possibly. His was the last clear chance to kill the contract. If he had nixed it from the very beginning, then this whole problem would never have arisen. Besides, the mere fact that he knew the deal was crooked and approved it anyway already makes him a principal by indispensable cooperation.

Lozada? Are you serious? That would be deicide? LOL. Kidding aside, I doubt a law has been passed penalizing bad advice. But he may be liable as an accomplice of some sort. What the hell? The point is moot anyway. He’s a bona fide hero now. He’s David. He’s prolly gonna end up in the Senate in 2010.

Mendoza? Only if it can be proven that he was privy to technical details. The way these things go, he might have not come in at all until signing – having trusted the tech-whiz kids to hammer out the details.

Mike Arroyo? Like Abalos, he was prolly just a fixer. It’s his relationship with the Prez that makes his involvement so heinous.

Gloria Arroyo? If proven complicit (i.e., she knowingly okay’ed a corrupt deal – whatever her motivations), absolutely. That’s betrayal of public trust right there. But what if she were only negligent? That sounds like a betrayal of public trust as well, but with a lot more wriggle room (legally, anyway).

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7 Responses

  1. cvj says:

    I don’t buy the excuse that it was too late to cancel the contract when she found about it the night before because it would upset China. We stand on equal footing with China as an independent nation. We are not their vassal state. She has no business being ‘President’ if she could not even talk to a fellow head of state on equal terms regarding a matter of national interest.

    As for who will be held accountable, sounds like a job for Merceditas ‘There is a crime, but there are no criminals‘ Gutierrez.

    Anyway, neat chart!

  2. rom says:

    cvj: about the chart? thanks! i got the idea of making charts from you. as for ditching china like the runaway bride, well i guess that’s what presidents are for: to make those hard but necessary decisions ordinary folks can’t.

  3. […] temper the “reply or resign” call made by people like Martin Bautista. In her blog, smoke makes a decision flow chart and, well, the best that could be said was a negligent President (but […]

  4. Jeg says:

    ‘Negligent’ is such a nice, innocent word. “I was too busy with something more important that I failed to notice it.” Ahhh, well in that case…

    Personally, I prefer ‘incompetent’. It’s her job to curb corruption and she can’t (or won’t). And when bribery occurs right in Malacanang (remember those 50,000 peso gift bags?) that wouldve been enough to cause any other world leader with half the decency to resign.

  5. rom says:

    mlq3: i doubt her admission will temper anythng. Its actually more likely to goad ppl to greater impatience for her departure.

    Jeg: negligence is a kind of incompetence, but harsher. Whereas an otherwise harmless bumbling fool can be accused of being incompetent, only a person with sufficient intelligence and capacity for correct action can be accused of negligence. That person’s offense is therefore greater because he cld have done right, but didnt.

  6. rex says:

    Waw. May flow-chart pa talaga, now that’s a clear perspective. I’m an engineering student, I more than appreciate the flowchart.

  7. rom says:

    rex: welcome to the smoking room. Hehe. I don’t really do charts very well. i just needed a way to organize my thoughts better. 🙂

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