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MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sergio "Serge" Osmeña III is considering inviting Pampanga Rep. Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo to testify at the Upper Chamber's investigation into the purportedly anomalous P111-billion bridge project that was carried out during the former president's administration.
Osmeña said that while Arroyo could cite reasons for not attending the hearing conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, he would still invite her to shed light on the 14 bridge contracts that were allegedly "misrepresented" as having been funded through Official Development Assistance concessional financing from countries such as the United Kingdom and France.
Arroyo is again detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City after she was arrested for the second time earlier this month on plunder charges in connection with the alleged misuse of P325-million intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
“I would like to invite her but there are problems involved in it. She is in the hospital; a congresswoman kaya ang daming excuses n'yan. But that might be a good idea. I will extend an invitation to her,” Osmeña told reporters on Monday.
The senator,who is spearheding the probe into the bridge projects that were allegedly awarded without bidding, said Arroyo and members of her Cabinet would be given the opportunity to explain their side if they would attend the hearing.
Osmeña said the allegedly graft-ridden projects would not commence without the approval of the chairperson and presiding officer of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), who at the time was Arroyo.
"And she was present in every NEDA board meeting...When you have 14 contracts without public bidding there’s something wrong,” he added.
He said that in the course of the two hearings conducted so far, the committee established that “there were two sections in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act that were really violated.”
First is the prohibition on giving undue advantage to anybody. “Eh, undue advantage 'yon kasi walang bidding [There was undue advantage because there was no biddings]," said Osmeña.
“The other one is the provision that officials shall not enter in a grossly disadvantageous contract. Eh, grossly disadvantageous ito, nakikita mo overpriced, nakikita mo may misrepresentation [This is grossly disadvantageous, you can see that it is overpriced, you can see that there is misrepresentation]" he said.
Of the 14 projects reviewed by Senate committee, only two were carried out during the Estrada administration while the rest were awarded during the Arroyo administration, according to Osmeña.
The senator said said among those set to be invited for the next hearing are Mrs. Arroyo’s former Public Works secretaries Hermogenes Ebdane and Simeon Datumanong, whose department spearheaded the implementation of the bridge projects.