Inside the sausage factory

Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror December 19, 2007 edition, p. A10.

Joey De Venecia and his father were accused of breaking the “no relatives of top government officials who have a say on the awarding of contracts” law when he submitted an unsolicited bid for the national broadband network.

Diosdado Macapagal Jr. and his sister were cleared of breaking the same law when Monte Oro won the bid for Transco’s transmission lines because “The Palace has nothing to do with the awarding of the bids in the power industry,” according to Palace factotum Cerge Remonde.

The Power Assets and Liabilities and Management Corp. (PSALM)awarded the bid to Monte Oro. PSALM is a government agency headed by an Arroyo appointee, Jose Ibazeta, a director of Enrique Razon’s flagship port terminals company (ICTSI) and its subsidiaries.

Razon, treasurer of Team Unity and  part owner of Monte Oro,  is a close associate of Mike and Gloria Arroyo and Diosdado Macapagal Jr.

Ibazeta said there was no conflict of interest there because “everything’s so transparent, so how can it be said that this is ‘lutong macao’?”

Definitely it’s not “lutong macao.” The Chinese partner is from the mainland, not Macao. If we must use an analogy, the correct term is “shanghaied”. Like the broadband deal.

Walter Brown, Monte Oro chair and president, added, “Mr. Razon has issued a statement that he will divest from Monte Oro.”

Now I understand why Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. said it’s possible the bidders colluded and Monte Oro will sell shares to the losing bidders.

As to the younger Macapagal, “Buboy,” well, he was cleared of any wrong doing by no less than Raul Gonzalez, the unconfirmed Secretary of Justice.

Raul Gonzalez said, “Assuming that he participated, it’s unfair that just because he is the brother of the President, he will be deprived of joining (the auction). He’s a legitimate businessman.”

That’s definitely different from the case of another legitimate businessman, Joey De Venecia. Buboy is the brother of the Gloria Arroyo; Joey is the son of the Speaker and he blew the whistle on the broadband deal.

Gonzalez added, “It was the corporation that participated. The personality of the corporation is different from the individual.”

Again that’s different for Joey De Venecia whose personality is inseparable from Amsterdam Holdings, the company whose “no sovereign guarantee” bid for a broadband network was shanghaied by Abalos and his principal.

The last time we heard from Joey De Venecia was when he testified about an interesting conversation he had with Mr. Razon right after the famous “Back off!” incident. Former president Joseph Estrada was pardoned immediately after De Venecia’s testimony.

Below, to the best of my recollection, is the story told by Joey.

(START) “He (Joey De Venecia) said he called Razon after the famous back-off encounter with Mike Arroyo. Razon asked him to go to the ICTSI office in Port Area.”

Jamby (Sen. Madrigal) asked, “What happened there?”

Joey replied, “I told Razon about the back-off incident.”

He (Razon) reacted: “Putangina kasi yung Abalos na yan. Sinabi pa niya kay Mike meron siyang 70 million dollars dito, hindi na nakalimutan ni Mike.” (END)

The testimony would have made bigger headlines than “Back Off!” but it, along with Joey, was buried by news of Erap’s sudden pardon.

However, I’m not implying anything sinister about the timing of the pardon. I know this regime would never do that.

The Transco deal is the biggest privatization in Philippine history. For $3.9 billion, 25% down and 20 years to pay the balance at market rate plus 2.3%, Monte Oro got the Transco power grid concession that includes transmission lines with fiber optic broadband capability.

BROADBAND. Hello ZTE-Monte Oro.

ZTE will recover its investment after all. And, since a broadband network will require a congressional franchise, the hit song, “Meron kang 200 dito” will experience a revival. Everybody happy.

Meanwhile, a joint Senate-House investigation committee, co-chaired by Sen. Miriam Santiago and Rep. Mikey Arroyo, son of Gloria, are holding hearings on the Napocor fire sales.

If there’s anything dirty going on, if Gloria, Mike, or any of their associates are in anyway involved, you can be sure that Miriam and Mike Jr. will see to it they are held accountable. “You can take that to the bank,” as Enron executives used to say.

Miriam lost no time clearing Ibazeta, “He (Ibazeta) is saying that there is no conflict of interest. I am chair of a terminal services corporation and we are here dealing with the power sector, so I don’t see any conflict between terminal services and the power sector.”

But, as it turns out, the Monte Oro deal is really none of her business.

“Whether there is any irregularity in the bidding process itself or in the projected dire consequences of the sale to this winning bidder, that will be taken up by another committee,” Santiago said.

And that ends the tour of the sausage factory.

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