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Philippine senator in broadband case accuses China of 'inventing corruption'
2007-09-26 03:16:56 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MANILA, Philippines -- A Philippine senator publicly berated China during a hearing Wednesday into an allegedly overpriced broadband project with the Philippines, accusing it of "inventing corruption."

"China invented civilization in the East, but as well it invented corruption for all of human civilization," said Sen. Miriam Santiago, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The allegations centered on a US$330 million (£į235 million) broadband network contract with China, which has been suspended after testimonies that the head of the Philippine Commission on Elections allegedly received bribes to award the project to China's Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment (ZTE) Corp.

A losing bidder, Filipino businessman Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, and Cabinet official Romulo Neri testified that elections chief Benjamin Abalos offered them bribes to back out of the proposal.

Abalos and ZTE have denied the allegations, and the Chinese telecommunications company said it was "utterly disappointed" that the project has been suspended.

"These Chinese are fond of making invitations to golf, to dinner, giving free tickets to China," Santiago said. "We all understand that when we are public officials we are not invited because of our physical or sexual good looks, we are being invited because of a certain government project."

In previous media interviews, Abalos said ZTE officials were his "golfing buddies" and paid for his trips to China.

Santiago, who is known for her mercurial temper, also admonished officials and a private contractor who were testifying of "just fighting over your kickbacks."

Although the project has been suspended, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Tuesday she had ordered a discreet investigation and found allegations of bribery and overpricing unsubstantiated.

Santiago is a close ally of Arroyo, who witnessed the signing of the broadband deal during a visit to Beijing in April.

Arroyo has hailed deepening ties between the Philippines and China, and is scheduled to visit Beijing again next month.

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