My husband Lolo was watching the news yesterday, but this time it wasn’t super Tuesday, or even Brittney Spears.

There was “Jun” Lozada, surrounded by nuns and priests, having a press conference.

And later that day, he was there again, being grilled by the Philippine Senate about a broadband agreement with China that was so full of corruption that, even by Philippine standards, it made people just shake their head in amazement or despair. All sorts of people were in on the deal, including rumors that the First Gentleman and son of the ex Speaker of the House were involved. How much is true, I have no idea. If the sun came up tomorrow, some people would blame it on President Arroyo because politics here makes the Bush hating Kos kids seem polite.
Alas, much of the testimony was in Tagalog (and I’m not yet fluent), but the Manila Bulletin has the story summarized HERE, and it’s a blood pressure raiser.
Apparantly, there was a $330 million dollar Broadband contract, and the bid was won by a Chinese company, the ZTE Corporation. It has since been cancaled due to allegations of bribery.

The key claim in the six hour testimony is here:

Lozada asserted that Abalos, a close friend of the President’s husband, demanded that the contract be awarded to the Chinese firm.

“The trouble started when Abalos came to me to sell the [ZTE Corp.] proposal in September 2006,” he said under oath.

Lozada added that Abalos had told him “to protect” his $130-million “commission.”

“I warned him, that would stick out, but we might be able to get 65 [million dollars],” he said he told Abalos after consulting with Jose de Venecia….

Lozada said Neri, who eventually approved the revised contract, instructed him to “moderate their greed.”

Abalos of course denies all of this, and has sued Lozada for libel.

And there are countercharges of corruption against Lozada, that while working for a forestry agency he spent $1400 to buy 35 Australian goats to see if they would devour Jatropa, a plant being proposed as a source of biodiesel.
Then there is the question about who exactly excorted Lozada from the airport when he arrived the other day. Police said it might have been their men, but Lozada said they appeared to be from the military, not the police. (the latest update says the men were airport security guards).
In the meanwhile, Lozada is protected by nuns and priests, figuring that is the safest way to stay alive.

And the testimony is upsetting the Chinese Embassy, who is worried that the corruption scandal, coming on top of an earlier North Rail project that also generated claims of overpricing, bribery and kickbacks.

The Asia Sentinal points out the billions of dollars being invested by a China who wants to replace the US as the Philippines largest trading partner, combined with a Chinese pragmatism that ignores corruption results in an exacerbation of corruption in the Philippines.

However, unlike China, the Philippines still has an active press and an inefficient but vigorous democracy that will continue to investigate the corruption…despite witnesses flying to unknown destinations and papers being withheld under “executive privlege”.

So will the ex chairman of the Commission on Elections Abalos win his libel suit? Will others involved in the scandal come clean? Or was this a simple misunderstanding between friends?

One clue to the future might be found in an ABS CBN Story today, proclaiming:
DOJ to investigate Lozada but not F(irst)G(entleman) Arroyo…

“It’s unfair to call on people [whose involvement cannot be proven],” Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said.


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