Lacson Seeks Parallel Probe of $329-M ZTE Deal

Warning that national security may be at stake, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson sought Wednesday a parallel Senate investigation into the anomalous $329-million national broadband network deal the Philippine government inked with Chinese firm ZTE Corp. 

Lacson noted that the broadband network, to be used primarily by government agencies, makes all communication that passes through it vulnerable to monitoring.

“Ordinary users may think Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a secure channel of communication. That makes it more dangerous. VoIP is vulnerable to monitoring by anyone with access to the network, including the firm that will build it,” he said.

Lacson said that while Congress has called for a similar investigation, he wants to focus on the security implications of the deal, which he said are chilling since they can potentially expose state secrets.

In effect, he voiced concerns that the government will be baring its soul before those who tap into and monitor the network.

“We can always hold accountable those who were involved in graft-tainted deals surrounding the contract. But giving away our state secrets is something we may never recover from,” he said.

He said even ordinary cell-phone and landline phone subscribers stand to suffer, as private service providers will likely charge higher rates to recover lost income.

“Private service providers have already invested billions to set up an infrastructure. With an impending loss of income, they will likely jack up their rates to recover their losses,” he said.

But despite all these, Lacson lamented greed pushed the government into signing the deal, with President Arroyo personally going to China last April to witness the signing.

He cited information reaching him indicating that almost $200 million in bribes changed hands, including $55 million for a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official, $75 million for a “Big One and a Little One,” and $68 million for “election expenses.”

He said he already has at least one eyewitness who is “ready and willing” to testify on the bribes involving the government officials.