With Mrs. Arroyo again failing to immediately investigate the matter, the payoff mess involving Korean industrial firm Hanjin is turning out to be another scandal in the mold of the $329.48-million ZTE broadband network deal mess.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson noted Mrs. Arroyo did not order an investigation when Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental Mayor Paulino Emano told her about a P400-million bribe offer, just like she “ignored” then socio-economic secretary Romulo Neri’s report of a P200-million offer.
“It’s ‘Sec, may 200 ka rito’ all over again. When Mayor Paulino reported to Mrs. Arroyo a P400-million bribe offer by Hanjin, instead of ordering an immediate investigation, he was ignored by Mrs. Arroyo. Now that he is talking a bit, a full-blown investigation is being ordered,” Lacson said.
He recalled that last year, when Neri – now chairman of the Commission on Higher Education –told Mrs. Arroyo about a P200-million bribe offer from then Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos, Mrs. Arroyo merely told him not to accept the bribe, but to push through with the ZTE project.
Senate hearings on the ZTE mess revealed a web of corruption involving kickbacks and commissions that jacked up the price of the contract by more than 200 percent.
But now, he said that if there was indeed a P400-million offer and Mrs. Arroyo ignored the mayor’s report, a more interesting question now comes to mind: “How much was offered or actually given to Malacañang or Mrs. Arroyo?”
Lacson also called for the immediate securing of Mayor Emano, adding the mayor must now tell all about the attempted bribery, and Mrs. Arroyo’s possible attempt at cover-up.
“Mayor Emano must be protected and secured immediately. Thereafter he must tell the details of the whole truth about the attempted bribery involving Hanjin, including making Mrs. Arroyo at least an accessory after the fact,” he said.
On the other hand, Lacson said it is amusing that Mrs. Arroyo would be “furious” only now, saying she should have become furious the moment the bribe offer was reported to her.
“Bakit siya hindi nag-order ng investigation noon? Bakit ngayon lang, dahil binuko ng mayor? And if P400 million was offered to local officials, how much was offered to Malacañang (Why did she not immediately order an investigation? Is she ordering one now only because the mayor made it public? And if P400 million was offered to local officials, how much more was offered to Malacañang)?” he said.
Earlier reports indicated Emano was offered the amount to allow continued operation of the shipbuilding facility in the town. Emano ordered Hanjin to cease operations after it failed to present an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and a municipal building permit.
But Hanjin officials, through a letter-complaint filed before the office of Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, claimed Emano’s men manhandled one of their representatives.
Hanjin had planned to operate a $2-billion shipyard that would extend from Tagoloan to Villanueva in Misamis Oriental. Its training center alone would occupy eight hectares, while the planned shipyard would be on a 70-hectare property in Tagoloan and on a 400-hectare property in Villanueva.