Cayetano Statement Scuttles Senate ZTE Corruption Probe; GMA is Home Free

Senator Alan Cayetano said that the Senate investigation into the highly anomalous us$329 million national broadband network yielded evidence “leading up to the Office of the President” but no direct testimony linking President Gloria Arroyo to the corrupt deal.

This is lawyer-speak for the fact that, although she may well be guilty, the evidence gathered against GMA won’t stand up in court nor, for that matter, in the Senate investigation or impeachment proceedings. True, a lot of the president’s men were directly implicated, notably Benjamin Abalos, Romulo Neri, Lito Atienza and a host of lesser functionaries, but there was no “smoking gun” to incriminate Arroyo. She’s one lucky bitch indeed, in the words of Gov. Salceda, and cunning too. Her people took the heat and she brazened it out, until the Supreme Court decision upholding Neri’s claim of executive privilege gave her some relief.

As Alan Cayetano said:

There is evidence leading up to the Office of the President but it is always better–may it be in a court of law, in an impeachment proceeding or in the blue ribbon committee–that there is direct testimony. (In this case), there is no direct testimony.

He went on to say that if no new witnesses surface within the next two weeks, an interim report will be released by the Senate blue-ribbon committee to this effect. As explained by Cayetano:

If by next week we will have no new witness, we will release this too. We’re making the report now and hopefully we’ll finish it within the next two weeks. The report will not be dependent on them (new witnesses).But we will not wait for them. We are now preparing the report, which includes the abduction issue and the main issues of the ZTE. We do not want to wait too long to come up with their recommendations because what is more important is to have remedial legislation that this will not be repeated.

Which irked Senator Panfilo Lacson, who expressed surprise at Cayetano’s statement, which will effectively lead to the formal closure of the Senate ZTE corruption scandal hearings. Lacson took his colleagues to task for sitting back and not pro-actively seeking new witnesses that would keep the investigation going. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada also expressed opposition to the plan to shut down the hearing.

A peeved Lacson demanded that the investigation continue. Said he:

So who has the most responsibility sitting in Malacañang? It’s not a good sign for other resource persons who might think it was all right to snub the hearings because the report would still be finalized.

To which Cayetano retorted:

Let us pardon Senator Lacson because he did not understand what I said. We could have better evidence if we have a witness testifying the involvement of the President. If there is such a witness, we are still waiting for that witness but we can’t wait forever.

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Loren Legarda agreed with Sen. Cayetano. According to Santiago:

By saying that there is no direct testimony implicating the President or the First Couple, then it is, in effect, an admission that the case against the First Couple is either very weak or does not exist at all.

Sen. Legarda added:

We have spent so much time for the hearings, asked so many questions. We don’t want to waste our time waiting for a witness who is not really involved in the ZTE deal. There was no money handed to her (Arroyo). There was nothing like that although some of those close to her were present (in the ZTE meetings), but we still cannot link this to her.

Senator Manuel Roxas agreed with Cayetano, saying that no one testified claiming to link the President to the deal or that the President had issued orders on the ZTE deal. However, he cautioned that the hearings should not be formally ended until after the Supreme Court has resolved the Senate’s motion for reconsideration of the Neri ruling.

This should come as no surprise. Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban , no apologist for Arroyo, has categorically and candidly stated weeks ago that, based on the law and evidence, GMA has no direct link to the ZTE NBN mess:

As it is now, there has been no evidence directly linking GMA to the alleged ZTE-NBN overprice. Other than by innuendo, not even Jun Lozada has testified that GMA was part of the bukol. Neither has Joey de Venecia definitively said that GMA was a direct beneficiary of the supposed $130-million “commission.”

Which led columnist Ramon Tulfo to ask plaintively:

If there is evidence leading up to the Office of the President, then why is there no testimony connecting GMA to the scandal?

Her husband, Mike Arroyo, was directly implicated in the scandal by principal witness Jun Lozada.

Bedfellows tell each other secret things except about their marital infidelity.
Aren’t the President and Mike Arroyo bedfellows?

The President herself admitted she was told that the project was tainted with corruption, but she went ahead and signed the deal with ZTE Corp., anyway. Earlier, former Socioeconomic Secretary Romy Neri alleged that he was offered P200 million by former Comelec chair Ben Abalos as his share in the grossly overpriced project.

So, how could the President not have been involved in the scandal?

Precisely, the evidence is circumstantial, and not strong enough to pin GMA down, at least as far as the law is understood and interpreted. Whether she is innocent before the bar of public opinion is another matter altogether.

Thus, when all is said and done, there’s not much else left for the Senate to do but to bring down the curtains on this drama. No witnesses will surface within the next two weeks. Why should they come out now that they are shielded by the Supreme Court decision in the Neri petition ? Its not likely that the Supreme Court will reverse itself, particularly now, when the statements emanating from Senate send the clear signal that it has practically thrown in the towel.

Why would anyone risk sharing the limbo that Jun Lozada and company presently find themselves in ? It would take someone of a truly heroic (and suicidal) disposition to step up now. It certainly won’t be Romulo Neri.

To be sure, the investigation may continue as far as the involvement of Abalos et. al. in the rotten deal and the events leading up to the botched abduction of Jun Lozada . But GMA has gotten away with it once again.

As Porky Pig would say: “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”

The Inquirer dissects the naked spin given by Malacanang to Cayetano’s pronouncements, but Filipinos can tell who is lying and who is telling the truth they may just be awaiting the day of reckoning.

5 thoughts on “Cayetano Statement Scuttles Senate ZTE Corruption Probe; GMA is Home Free”

  1. I fear that the Senate investigation on the ZTE-NBN scandal is nearing its closure, well, at least in the floors of the legislature. Yet it does not mean that it all ends there.

    It may be a legal, or legislative, closure. Yet the closure on the courts of public opinion remains far behind. To a certain extent, I think the Senate’s impending closure on the issue has its effects on the course of public opinion. As for the cabals of Gloria, that’s one more reason for them to trumpet their asses to the heavens.

    All these talks of legalities only make me believe more further that what is legal is not necessarily, and always, what is just.

  2. Butch, I hear you. I understand the thinking of Cayetano, I believe that Cayetano made a few blunders along the way as to the how he handled the investigation. I still think that a more seasoned Senator such as Pimentel would have done a better job.

    But I think no matter what occurred along the way, the end game could not have been anything but this.. Especially with regards to The Supreme Court decsion..

    I think the criticism leveled at Cayetano is misplaced, but I also think that they have their basis. Everyone’s angry at Arroyo, and Cayetano is a good candidate to vent some anger on to…

    The only thing as to why everyone is so peeved is that the way he has gone out of his way to utilize lawyer language (no offense) to almost absolve Gloria, and then focus on the report, as if it were a book report due… Does he have finals this month or what?

  3. True, SpliceandDice. The legal process and the law itself are not always just. Which is why we have to remain vigilant, whether the Senate inquiry is closed on not. There are other venues for seeking redress for our grievances, the ultimate one, of course, being the parliament of the streets. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. I agree, Nick, it does come across as if Cayetano has almost absolved Gloria, although he emphasized that the report is an interim or preliminary one. Malacanang, of course, has crowed about it as a victory. It could have been handled more judiciously, and the language used not so Arroyo-friendly. The GMA propaganda machine had a field day picking out selective sound bites, putting a pro-Arroyo spin to them.

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