Philippine Elections Chief Resigns

October 1, 2007 at 4:46 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 01, 2007) – Embattled Elections chief Benjamin Abalos Sr., has resigned on Monday in the middle of a senate investigation into the controversial government broadband network deal with China.

Abalos announced his resignation and apparently caught government officials by surprise. He said last week that he will not resign despite accusations that he brokered the national broadband network contract with ZTE Corp. in behalf of the government.
“With the resignation of Chairman Abalos, a chapter has just been closed but not the whole book. Justice must be pursued to its logical end in the ZTE affair. I call on President Arroyo to appoint an immediate replacement who can restore the people’s faith in Philippine democracy,” Senator Mar Roxas said.

He also urged President Arroyo to create a high-level commission composed of men and women of known probity and independence that will look into every facet of the ZTE deal.

“Let the chips fall where they may. It is time that the administration spares no sacred cows, and commits to the policy of transparency and accountability,” he said.

Abalos said he resigned because the allegations affected him and his family. Abalos has denied all accusations against him.

Jose de Venecia III, of the Amsterdam Holdings Incorporated, accused Abalos of offering him $10 million to back out from the broadband deal.

De Venecia, the son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia, was ZTE’s rival for the national broadband contract. Romulo Neri, former Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority, also accused Abalos of bribing him.

De Venecia said the broadband deal was probably worth only $130 million, but this suddenly ballooned to $329 million.

He said President Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, also told him to back off from the deal. Arroyo’s lawyers have denied the allegations.

Representative Liza Maza on Monday Abalos’ resignation should not close down investigations on the national broadband scandal and that all those involved in the deal should be made accountable.

”Abalos’ resignation is but an initial victory as we probe deeper into the NBN-ZTE deal and other anomalies in the Arroyo administration,” Maza said.

She said Abalos’ resignation could be a move to pre-empt further investigations into the anomalous contract that could implicate the President and her husband.

“This is why both Houses of Congress should not back down on the inquiries. It is possible that Abalos is just a fall-guy in this multi-billion dollar scam,” she said.

”In the course of the investigations, there are documents that have emerged indicating Mrs. Arroyo herself authorized Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza full authority to approve the NBN-ZTE contract even before the National Economic and Development Authority had a chance to assess the program and the contract,” she said.

The President has suspended indefinitely the national broadband network project because of the controversy. Government spokesmen also denied all accusations against the President and her husband.

Ignacio Bunye, Press Secretary and Arroyo’s spokesman, said: “We respect his decision and appreciate his desire to protect his family and the Commission on Elections from vicious politics. We wish him well as he carries on his fight to clear his name.”

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