TIMELINE: Exposing the ZTE Overprice

abs-cbnNEWS.com/ Newsbreak

Posted at Nov 24 2008 07:50 PM | Updated as of Nov 26 2008 04:26 PM

A record of key events in the controversy surrounding the government's botched National Broadband Network deal with China's ZTE Corporation.

November 24, 2008: Jose de Venecia appears before the House of Representatives justice committee on a hearing on the impeachment complaint against the president that the former speaker endorsed less than a month ago.

October 15, 2008: The Department of Justice releases findings stating that Joey de Venecia and his father, former House Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia, practiced improper use of influence and conflict of interest in relation to the NBN – ZTE deal. There is no mention of the First Gentleman or the president. 

October 12, 2008: Jose de Venecia, former administration ally, files an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo, the fourth in a roster of complaints since 2004. Among the charges in the complaint is the president’s alleged involvement in the controversial botched deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.

September 23, 2008: Lozada appeals to the Supreme Court to re-open and reconsider the writ of amparo for protection of his siblings.

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September 18, 2008: The Court of Appeals dismisses Jun Lozada's writ of amparo petition due to lack of evidence.

July 14, 2008: The High court dismisses three petitions to question the constitutionality of the NBN-ZTE deal, declaring the project moot and academic because President Arroyo already cancelled it.

July 4, 2008: Mike Defensor files a perjury case against Lozada. The whistleblower allegedly stated that Defensor offered him a P50,000 bribe to change his statement regarding being kidnapped in the NAIA airport from Hong Kong at the height of the controversy.

June 28, 2008: Teddy Casino, Bayan Muna representative, warns that the government is repackaging the controversial NBN-ZTE deal. According to Casino, the project is being broken up into smaller packages, starting with DOTC's Information Infrastructure Development that initially costs P300 million.

June 25, 2008: Violet Lozada files for bail for the perjury case filed by the Philippine National Police.

June 13, 2008: A warrant of arrest was issued to Violet Lozada, wife of NBN-ZTE star witness Jun Lozada. The arrest was on account of a perjury complaint filed against her by some members of the PNP. The complaint stemmed from the writ of habeas corpus she filed before the Court of Appeals last February 6 asking the PNP to produce the body of her husband.

June 2, 2008: Pangasinan representative Jose de Venecia said in a written statement that he will not comment on the developments of the overpriced NBN-ZTE broadband deal.

April 29, 2008: Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, says that there is a "Vast amount of evidence" pointing to the Office of the President and the Palace should just coordinate with the committee to speed up the process.

April 15, 2008: The Supreme Court orders then Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri to comment within 10 days on the Senate motion asking the Tribunal to reconsider its March 25 ruling on executive privilege.

April 8, 2008: Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Benigno Aquino III file a motion praying that the high court reconsider its decision favoring the exercise of executive privilege by Romulo Neri before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

March 25, 2008: The Supreme Court votes 9 – 6 in favor of Romulo Neri’s petition invoking executive privilege in relation to three questions that the Senate required him to answer during the hearings on the NBN-ZTE.

March 11, 2008: Leo San Miguel, former technical adviser of ZTE Corp., divulges during the Senate inquiry that he has no knowledge of the "kickbacks" in the NBN project. He also admits making four trips to China in 2006 for the deal.

March 10, 2008: After being removed as House Speaker, Jose de Venecia resigns as the standard-bearer of the Lakas-CMD party.

March 4, 2008: First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo appears before the Office of the Ombudsman for the hearing on the national broadband network (NBN) project. This is the first time the First Gentleman appeared in a hearing on the over-priced deal between Philippines and China.

Feb. 18, 2008: The Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice start their separate probes in the NBN deal. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez a classmate of the First Gentleman and a former chief legal counsel of President Arroyo, inhibits from the probe.Meanwhile, police officers and airport personnel snubs the Senate hearing, citing their right against self-incrimination.

Feb. 14, 2008: ZTE issues a statement saying that it "has neither done anything wrong nor has it bribed anyone" to get the NBN project.

Feb. 16, 2008: Lozada and Abalos faces off in a television special "Harapan" aired on ABS-CBN. Ninety percent of the more than 28,000 viewers and listeners who participated on a poll said Lozada is telling the truth.

Feb.11, 2008: Lozada and some government officials involved in the controversy faces off in a Senate hearing. Lozada stresses that he was taken against his will on his arrival from Hong Kong.

  • Atienza says he was acting on his own when he helped Lozada.
  • NAIA general manager Alfonso Cusi says his office received a request Feb. 5 at 4pm from his deputy Angel Atutubo for security for Lozada filed by Senior Supt. Paul Mascariñas Police Security and Protection Office (PSPO) and Rodolfo Valeroso of the Aviation Security group.
  • PNP Director General Avelino Razon testifies that there was no kidnapping or abduction took place because the PSPO group was provided upon Lozada's request.
  • Former environment secretary Michael Defensor says he never asked Lozada to stop testifying about the ZTE deal. He adds that he gave Lozada P50, 000 for his expenses.
  • Bautista denies Lozada's allegation and says that the affidavit he prepared was based on his conversation with Lozada in the restaurant.
  • Manuel Gaite says Lozada requested assistance in avoiding the Senate hearing.
  • Mascariñas says no force was used against Lozada.

Feb. 8, 2008: Lozada tells a Senate hearing the details of his departure for Hong Kong and his disappearance upon arriving. Among his claims are:

  • He told Environment secretary Lito Atienza that he did not want to testify.
  • Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite prepared ante-dated travel order to Hong Kong.
  • While he was in Hong Kong, Neri called and told him to write a letter to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to withdraw the motion to arrest him and to not to drag First Gentleman Mike Arroyo into the controversy.
  • Men, whom he did not know approached him, hauled him into a vehicle, brought him to different locations and asked him to write a letter requesting for security detail.
  • He met police officer Paul Mascarinñas and lawyer Antonio Bautista in a restaurant in Libis. 
  • Bautista told him to sign an affidavit while Mascariñas asked him to convince his sister to sign a letter requesting for security detail.
  • Mike Defensor told him to call a press conference to deny that he was kidnapped and to say that he has not been involved in the issue.

Feb. 7, 2008: Lozada, in a 2 a.m. press conference at La Salle Greenhills, links Abalos and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo to the US$329.5-million national broadband deal with ZTE Corp. He reveals that:

  • Abalos threatened to have him killed.
  • When he quit the project in Jan. 18, 2007, the project was priced at $262 million, but when it was approved it was already $329.5 million.
  • Abalos had wanted a kickback of $130 million, with $70 million meant for Mr. Arroyo.
  • He did not know the people who took him and that Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza had him fetched from the airport.

Feb. 6, 2008: Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon in the morning says he wasn't aware of Lozada's whereabouts. Arthur Lozada, Rodolfo's brother, files a writ of amparo before the Supreme Court. Arthur's wife, Violeta, files a separate writ of habeas corpus. Razon says later in the day that Lozada is in police custody.

Feb. 5, 2008: The Supreme Court orders the Senate not to arrest Neri. Lozada arrives from Hongkong at 4:40 p.m., but reports and text messages circulates that airport officials have kidnapped him. Malacañang denies any involvement in Lozada's disappearance.

Feb. 1, 2008: The Senate sergeant-at-arms fails to arrest Neri in his house.

Jan. 31, 2008: The Senate attempts, but fails, to arrest Neri in his office at the Commission on Higher Education because he did not report for work.

Jan. 30, 2008: Philippine Forest Corp. president Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., an IT expert who allegedly knows how the ZTE contract was overpriced, flies to Hongkong two hours before the start of the Senate inquiry. The Senate orders his and Neri's arrest.

Oct. 25, 2007: Joey de Venecia tells a Senate hearing that Abalos promised First Gentleman Mike Arroyo US$70 million as kickback from the NBN project.

Oct. 2, 2007: First Gentleman Mike Arroyo denies that he told Joey de Venecia to back off from the NBN deal. President Arroyo, while on a state visit to China, cancels the NBN deal with ZTE Corp.

Oct. 1, 2007: Abalos resigns as chair of the Commission on Elections.

Sept. 27, 2007: Iloilo Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico files an impeachment complaint against Abalos.

Sept. 26, 2007: Former economic planning secretary Romulo Neri tells a Senate hearing that Abalos offered him P200 million to approve the ZTE contract. Neri says he mentioned the bribe offer to President Arroyo, who reportedly told him not to accept it. Invoking executive privilege, Neri declines to answer questions on whether or not he got specific orders from President Arroyo to approve the ZTE contract. Abalos denies Neri's allegations and tells the senators that Neri is lying under oath. He denies brokering the deal with ZTE but confirms that he has friends in the Chinese corporation.

Sept. 22, 2007: President Arroyo suspends the NBN project.

Sept. 18, 2007: Speaker Jose de Venecia's son, Joey, tells a Senate hearing that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo was the "mystery man" that pushed for the overpriced ZTE contract. Joey claims that Arroyo told him to "back off" from the project.

Sept. 5, 2007: Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. files a resolution asking the Senate blue ribbon committee to investigate the NBN deal.

Sept. 3, 2007: ZTE issues a press statement that that there has been "complete transparency in the proposal, evaluation, and approval of ZTE's application for the Philippines' NBN contract."

Aug. 30, 2007: Abalos denies Padilla's allegations, but confirms that he and some officials of ZTE are golfing buddies. He says that ZTE officials have paid for his trips to China.

Aug. 29, 2007: Rep. Carlos Padilla identifies Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos as the official who brokered for the project.

April 27, 2007: Jarius Bondoc writes in his Philippine Star column of an "unnamed Comelec official" who had a hand in the approval of the overpriced NBN deal.

April 21, 2007: The Office of the President comes out with a press release that President Arroyo stood as a witness to the signing of five economic and trade agreements between the Philippine government and China. One of these agreements is on the national broadband network (NBN) project with the Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited (ZTE).  

---Research by Jesus F. Llanto, Newsbreak and Leilani Chavez, abs-cbnNEWS.com
Sources: Newsbreak Online, Philippine Daily Inquirer, various news publications