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Lozada, De Venecia III inclusion on NBN raps opposed

By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:56:00 11/11/2009

Filed Under: Politics, NBN deal, Congress, Graft & Corruption

MANILA, Philippines ? Two senators have objected to the recommendation by a Senate panel to include Rodolfo ?Jun? Lozada and businessman Jose ?Joey? de Venecia III among those who should be charged with graft and corruption over the anomalous $329-million national broadband network (NBN) contract.

Senator Panfilo ?Ping? Lacson said he could not support the report by the blue ribbon committee ?that will discourage future whistleblowers from blowing the lid and testifying against powerful and influential persons committing large-scale graft.?

?I am however, in full support of recommending the filing of charges against PGMA [President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo], FG [First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo] and the others but not Joey de Venecia and Jun Lozada,? Lacson said in a statement on Wednesday.

It was Lacson?s speech on the controversial contract with China?s ZTE Corp. that triggered the Senate investigation, which Senator Richard Gordon headed as committee chairman.

Senator Francis ?Chiz? Escudero echoed Lacson?s statement. ?I don?t think Jun and Joey should be included. They both did a heroic act and we might be discouraging whistleblowers if they are included,? Escudero said in a separate text message.

In a 127-page report, the panel recommended the filing of graft and corruption cases against Lozada and De Venecia, son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., and nine others, including Mr. Arroyo, former Speaker, former National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Chairman Romulo Neri, and then elections chairman Benjamin Abalos.

It was the young De Venecia, the losing bidder in the NBN project, who exposed the alleged $10 million bribe that was allegedly offered to him by Abalos to give up his bid in favor of ZTE.

Five senators, as of Tuesday night, have signed the report: Gordon, Senators Joker Arroyo, Edgardo Angara, Gregorio Honasan, and Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Pimentel said the report was good because it ?spared no one.? But the senator said the young De Venecia and Lozada should be used as state witnesses.

While he supports the findings of the panel, Senator Arroyo expressed doubts that the cases against those who have been found responsible would be pursued by the authority.

?Sadly, the eerie fate of this inquiry is that after the committee report is adopted by the Senate in plenary, it will be just another episode that would find its way in the racks of blue ribbon committee archives alongside a plethora of committee reports of misdeeds in the past f other wrongdoers, who were never prosecuted by the executive or the Ombudsman,? he said in his dissenting opinion.

He said this ?malpractice? should not go on and must be corrected, otherwise, ?the inutility of these investigations will become more and more apparent and the public will lose faith in its usefulness and will look at it only for entertainment value.?

?However, it is rather late in the day to address this hostility between the current executive and Senate. Come July next year, we would have the next President and the incoming Senate,? said the senator.

?They can agree on the ground rules for future investigations. This will be for the good of all,? he added.



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