ZTE Deal Too Big, Reeking to Remain Swept Under the Rug

The $329.5-million deal with China’s ZTE Corp. for a national broadband network deal is too big and reeks too much for Malacañang to sweep it under the rug with a “suspension” order and a series of gag orders on its officials. 

Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson stressed this Saturday as he noted more and more scandals and anomalies involving the anomalous deal are coming out, exposing in the process the insatiable greed of some officials.

“The stench of the national broadband network contract with ZTE Corp. is too much to ignore. If not rescinded, it will expose more scandals and anomalies by itself,” he said, a week after President Arroyo ordered the suspension of the deal.

Mrs. Arroyo ordered last week the suspension of the deal, weeks after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against it, but kept mum on the reason behind it. Palace officials, on the other hand, refused to cancel the deal.

During a Senate hearing last Wednesday, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairman Romulo Neri – then the socio-economic secretary when the deal was signed in April – testified on a P200-million bribe offer from Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos to pass the deal. But Neri clammed up when asked about Mrs. Arroyo’s actions on the matter.

Lacson said that when the Senate resumes its hearing, he will ask ZTE Corp. and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to submit the bill of materials (BOM) on the equipment and the bill of particulars on engineering services.

One of the questionable items there is the allocation of $20 million for training and project management, normally considered a “freebie.”

On the other hand, reports indicated that Mrs. Arroyo authorized negotiations for awarding the contract to ZTE through “special authority” documents to two Cabinet officials, months before the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) started evaluating the project.

“People will see clearly how this administration almost succeeded in feeding us all to the sharks whose insatiable greed is beyond comprehension. Why allocate $20 million for training and project management as stipulated in the supply contract signed in Hainan when normally they are thrown in for free?” Lacson said.