When then-candidate Noynoy Aquino was courting the electorate, he vowed to annul the anomalous contracts of Arroyo and to hold her and her minions liable for their deeds. Primary of these sins was the scandal about the national broadband network contract with ZTE, which brought a little-known “Jun” Lozada into the limelight. It was Lozada’s foiled abduction and his contribution to modern lingo of “tongpats”, a moniker for pay-offs, that are best remembered of this scandal. Add to this the phrase “moderate your greed’ and what you have is a classic case study on how the past administration raided the public coffers for their purely private interests. The NBN-ZTE scandal, together with election fraud arising from the “Hello Garci” controversy, would also be mainstays in three impeachment complaints which I filed on behalf of civil society against then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Two of these complaints were to be endorsed by then-Rep. and now President Aquino.
But what a difference a year and a half could make. Now that PNoy has been in power, not only has he failed to file even a single case in court against Arroyo. He also now appears to have “legitimized” some of these anomalous contracts, notably the national broadband network scandal. While he affixed his signature in the past on two impeachment complaints, alleging that Arroyo was liable to be impeached for her complacency in approving the NBN-ZTE contract despite her knowledge of bribery that attended the approval of the project, PNoy today is resurrecting the same dirty project and adopting it as his own.
The justification is that unlike Arroyo, President Aquino will not allow an overprice of the project to enable the project proponent to make pay-offs to government officials. This presupposes that the only objection against the NBN-ZTE is the mater of the “tongpats”. Nothing can be farther from the truth!
What PNoy has again completely forgotten, in addition to the fact that we had more than ample evidence to prove election fraud in the three impeachment complaints sans the self-serving and hearsay declarations of Zaldy Ampatuan, is that the overprice of the NBN-ZTE project was only one reason why it was infirmed. There were other equally important infirmities of the contract, primary of which is that observed by CCM’s co-convenor, the late Josie Lichauco, herself a former Secretary of the DOTC.
Lichauco testified in the Senate that our telecoms law and the e-commerce act prohibit government from competing with the private sector in e-commerce infrastructure projects. Furthermore, as observed by the UP School of Economics, the establishment of a national broadband network was by itself not feasible, since government will simply not be in a position to catch up with developments in the IT sector. It even remarked that by the time the network is set-up, the technology availed of would already be obsolete. Hence, while the overprice made the controversy colorful—especially since there were whistleblowers, Jun Lozada and Joey de Venecia, the original objections to the project revolved around its legality and its feasibility. How dare now this Secretary Mario Montejo resurrect a patently illegal project? The bigger question is: How could PNoy have forgotten so soon?
Part of the problem is Mr. Aquino’s reliance on either recycled figures from the Arroyo administration or his appointment of people like Montejo who did not take a stand against evil in the past dispensation. Not having risked life and limbs against an evil regime, it is indeed very easy for the likes of Montejo to literally forget the past.
I was in the Supreme Court Tuesday for the oral arguments in the case to retrain the reclamation for an expanded jetty port in Caticlan. At the end of the oral arguments, I was conferring with Solicitor -General Jose Anselmo Cadiz when he received a telephone call confirming if the Court had in fact restrained the process of choosing officers-in-charge for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. While the SolGen himself had no comment on the now-confirmed temporary restraining order, PNoy’s miscommunication agent said a mouthful (again) against the Court.
While I have been critical of the Arroyo-appointed appointed Corona court, particularly on the issue of the legality of the appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, I think the administration cannot blame the composition of the Court for all of its legal setbacks. Even non-lawyers should know that while the Court has not ruled on the legality of the postponement of the ARMM elections, the Executive should at the very least, show courtesy to a co-equal branch and not proceed as if it had already won in the unresolved case. And certainly, proceeding with the process of choosing OIC’s in the ARMM assumes that a decision in Malacañang’s favor is already in the bag.
Apparently, the miscommunication agents in Malacañang and the small-time politico in the Department of the Interior and Local Government have no appreciation that those who took a stand against an Arroyo-dominated Judiciary did so because of the conviction that the Judiciary, as the guardian of the Constitution, should be truly independent and free from partisan politics. But apparently, by conducting themselves in a manner as if they are privy to how the Court will decide in an unresolved case, PNoy’s minions are now proving that they are no different from PGMA’s cronies. This is truly sad.