Jose Miguel Arroyo and Gloria Macapagal-ArroyoFIRST Gentleman Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Arroyo is allegedly the “mystery man” involved in the negotiations that led to the awarding of the controversial National Broadband Network contract to the Chinese company Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment Limited (ZTE).

Testifying before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing this morning on the national broadband contract, Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) chief executive Jose de Venecia III unmasked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband as the “mystery man” who attended one of the several meetings with Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. to pressure him to back out of the deal.

“Back off,” de Venecia recalled as the exact words Arroyo uttered while pointing an accusing finger at his face.

Listen to excerpts of de Venecia’s testimony.

The First Gentleman reportedly left on the eve of the Senate investigation on the NBN contract aboard a Cathay Pacific plane bound for Hong Kong late afternoon.

De Venecia, unperturbed, replied: “Mr. Arroyo, the economic benefit of our proposal has to be looked at.” He said that the AHI proposal was more beneficial because it did not require subsidy, equity or guarantee from the government, unlike the proposal of ZTE. (See related post.) While De Venecia was talking to him, Arroyo stood up, and went to the other side of the table. “So I ended up talking to nobody.”

The said meeting took place in mid-March 2007 at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong City. The persons present in the meeting, de Venecia disclosed, were Abalos, Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, businessman Ruben Reyes, Abalos’s chief of staff Jimmy Paz, Leo San Miguel, and retired police general Quirino dela Torre.

In that meeting, de Venecia recounted that Abalos continued to push him into backing out of the project and even apologized for “shouting invectives” at him in a previous meeting when he learned that AHI was pursuing the NBN project.

The “reconciliation meeting” was inconclusive, de Venecia said. “I could not back off on behalf of AHI, and besides, I knew that AHI’s proposal was far superior to the Abalos-ZTE proposal.” He maintained that the ZTE contract was 100-percent overpriced.

The “Abalos-ZTE proposal,” which was lobbied by Abalos on December 27, 2006, had a cost of $262 million that covered only 30 percent of the entire country. AHI’s proposal, on the other hand, was worth $240 million, which will cover 80 percent of the country. The broadband network project aims to establish a “seamless connectivity of landline, cellular and Internet services in all government offices nationwide.”

The Arroyo government saw the NBN project as a way to drastically cut the cost of communications between government agencies; the government at present pays telecommunication companies for the interconnectivity infrastructure.

1 Response to First Gentleman is ‘mystery man’


Joey De Venecia III: From whistle-blower to Senator? « Third Wave

February 23rd, 2010 at 2:08 am

[…] This time, no one told him to back off! Perhaps many are now telling him to continue his fight. It can be recalled that Joey De Venecia revealed, during Senate hearing, that he was told by a ‘mystery man’ to “back off” from the NBN deal. And the mystery man was allegedly First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. (Listen to Joey’s testimony from the PCIJ blog.) […]

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