Abalos rattled

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A VISIBLY irate Benjamin Abalos Sr., former chairman of the Commission on Elections, yesterday parried questions thrown at him by mediamen regarding the claim of ZTE-NBN deal witness Rodolfo Lozada, Jr. that he asked for a multi-million dollar commission on the government project.

Reporters swarmed the resigned Comelec chairman at the Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong City to get his side of Lozada’s story very early in the morning yesterday.

Abalos called Lozada’s allegation ridiculous as he denied he negotiated for a $130-million kickback from the aborted $329-million national broadband network project.

The elder Abalos, who nearly blew his top as more than 50 media people cornered him at the Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong City, questioned the timing of Lozada’s statement.

He asked why it took Lozada a year to make his charge and said the amount cited by his accuser was “very fantastic.”

Abalos, who was caught by surprise by the rush of mediamen, snapped at one: “Puro ka daw. puro ka daw. I do not comment on something I have not heard. Please allow me. Give me the privilege of hearing everything that he said.”

Pressed for further comment, the former Comelec head said he would issue a statement regarding the ZTE-NBN controversy once he had reviewed all the tapes of the statements of Lozada.

However, he vehemently denied threatening to kill Lozada after the latter quit on the government deal.

“Bakit ko siya tatakutin? After one year saka niya sasabihin na tinakot ko siya? That’s ridiculous,” Abalos said.

In his statement early yesterday, Lozada who was the technical consultant on the botched NBN deal, said Abalos demanded a $130-million kickback on the $329-million contract between the Arroyo government and China ’s ZTE Corp.

Lozada’s statement tended to corroborate Jose “Joey” De Venecia III’s claim that Abalos had masterminded the overpricing of the NBN project.

Abalos resigned last October as Comelec chairman under pressure from different quarters.