Thursday, March 06, 2008

Philippine Senate: Lacson has new ZTE NBN witness

Fresh from the Senate Press Room:

In this week's Kapihan sa Senado, Senator Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson announced that he will be bringing forward a new witness to testify in the Philippine Senate's investigation into the controversial National Broadband Network deal.

Lacson refused to unveil the identity of the new witness. Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel, however, dropped a hint by referring to the witness as a 'she'.

Senator Pimentel said that the new witness will testify on the acceptance of bribes and the distribution of the $41 Million of 'advances' on alleged kickbacks.

When asked if the testimony coming from the new witness would drag the First Family into the controversy, yet again, Pimentel said "Probably." He also described the witness as 'willing' -- as opposed to an 'unwilling' or hostile witness -- and that all that the Senate needed to do was to send an invitation to the witness, instead of issuing a subpoena.

With the surfacing of the new witness, the fourth one to be brought forward by Lacson, it is expected that the Philippine Senate will shift its focus away from CHED Chairman Romulo Neri. The CHED Chairman filed a case before the Supreme Court questioning the Senate's right to have him placed under arrest and caused the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Senate's warrant of arrest, thereby effectively barring the Senate from getting a hold of Neri and subjecting him to further questioning.

In the Senate's previous investigative hearing on the NBN deal, Dante Madriaga was presented as a witness testifying on what he knew about the NBN deal and the 'gang of four' which he said had engineered the controversial transaction. Madriaga identified the gang of four as former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, former police official Quirino “Torch” de la Torre, IT expert Leo San Miguel, and businessman Ruben Reyes. He also testified that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was part of what he called the 'greedy group' which includes the 'gang of four'.

Senator Richard Gordon had debunked the testimony of Madriaga, pointing out that the witness refused to sign an account of the NBN deal which the witness himself had written. (It must be noted, however, that Madriaga was under oath during the entire Senate hearing in which he testified.)

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