New ZTE NBN Corruption Scandal Witness was Part of Presidential Group

Iloilo Vice-Governor Rolex Suplico says he has a new witness willing to testify on the ZTE national broadband network corruption scandal. The witness is an acquaintance of Suplico, whom he claims only recently sought his advice on coming clean about what he knows of presidential involvement in the crooked ZTE deal. And what he knows is this: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made an undisclosed trip to the headquarters of ZTE Corporation in Shenzhen, China, for a meeting with its officials on Nov. 2, 2006, five months before she witnessed the signing of the national broadband network (NBN) contract, which she knew by then to be flawed and possibly illegal.

Speaking as a guest on the DZMM morning talk show of radio journalists Jerry Baja and Anthony Taberna, former Congressman Suplico, calling the new witness by the alias “Alex”, said the latter was a member of the presidential party which made the visit to Shenzen, but it’s not clear in what capacity. In fact, the picture which appeared in today’s front page of the Inquirer, showing the First Couple playing golf allegedly at the Shenzhen Golf Club, supposedly includes Alex. But Suplico admitted that Alex was not present in any of the alleged meetings in which the details of the ZTE transaction was finalized between Philippine government officials, presumably including President Arroyo, and the ZTE officials. At most, therefore, he can place Arroyo at Shenzhen during the mentioned date, together with the First Gentleman, and allegedly, ZTE broker Benjamin Abalos.

But this development will presumably put on hold Senate blue ribbon committee chair Alan Cayetano’s interim report on the ZTE investigation. This also breathes new life into the derailed Senate investigation. It remains to be seen how deep a throat Alex has.

The obvious question that can once again be asked of Arroyo is the same as that asked of President Nixon during the Watergate scandal:

What did the President know and when did (s)he know it?

Per the Inquirer, with the emergence of a new witness, the Senate blue ribbon committee on accountability of public officials will put its draft report on hold and reopen its inquiry into the scandal-ridden national broadband network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corporation in the next two weeks, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano announced yesterday. Cayetano, chair of the committee leading the inquiry, said:

I know this witness from two months ago, and he was one among the witnesses I mentioned who can give direct testimony regarding the participation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the deal. I have known about his testimony, and I know it’s substantial. I know it’s a direct testimony and I know it talks about the role of the President … so the public can judge for itself.

The guessing game on the identity of the new witness has begun, with Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago saying it is lawyer Alex Avisado Jr. and certain quarters claiming it is former House Speaker Jose de Venecia. My guess is it’s neither.

The Inquirer points out the suspicious discretion of the Office of the President in not disclosing the First Couple’s side trip to Shenzhen, in contrast to the the laboriously detailed daily press releases made on presidential activities, specially when abroad.

“Alex” is suddenly incommunicado, according to Suplico, leading credence to rumors that Palace flunkies have gotten to him and he will be prevented from testifying before the Senate.

JDV warns that what he knows, should he choose to talk, could bring down the Arroyo government. This is Mr. De Venecia being self-important, as usual. If he has something to say, he should say it now. Or else shut the hell up.

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