The Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking, JMSU for short, is back in the news.
Observing the simmering conflictbetween Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III and House Speaker Gloria M. Arroyo, I recall an article in the Sept. 15, 2001 issue of the Philippine Star that featured the narration ofJustin R. Phillips, general manager of The Linden Suites located at San Miguel Avenue of the dramatic three days of January 2001when the self-proclaimed members of the “civil society” succeededin cutting short the presidency of Joseph Estrada andinstalled in Malacañang the vice president.
Linden Suites which is owned by Dominguez, served as the war room for the operations to oust Estrada following the breakdown of Estrada impeachment trial in the Senate. The anti-Estrada forces called for “People Power 2” on Edsa.
Here’s the article that confirmed the role of the Dominguez hotel in Arroyo’s power grab: "I just happened to look out my third floor window," relates Justin R. Phillips, general manager of The Linden Suites which is located at San Miguel Avenue at the Ortigas Center, not far from where all the action was taking place, "and I saw this motorcade coming down San Miguel Ave. That was as much warning as we had and next thing we knew, the vice president and her group were here. Suddenly, we found ourselves catering to at least a hundred in the function rooms which were instantly transformed into a high-level operations center. It just went on all night. Then, at about 7 a.m., she retired to her room. Then, she was back down by about 9 a.m. She couldn’t have had much sleep. By mid-day, she was being sworn in."
Phillips said Arroyo showed her appreciation of the service Linden Suites provided her: “Afterwards, she sent gifts and recognition to the staff who went without sleep and attended to her needs all through that long and busy night. She complimented the restaurant shift managers who were among those who never went home during her stay…. They must have prepared and served countless sandwiches and coffee for their unexpected guests all through that sleepless night. The other managers who likewise stayed on and made all things possible for GMA’s group to have a safe and comfortable stay…”
The closeness of Dominguez and Arroyo is also emblazoned in a plaque in the lobby ofMarco Polo, Davao, another Dominguez-owned hotel.
Fromthe hostile sparks flying out of the House and statements from Dominguez, it looks like things are no longer nice and cozy between Dominguez, one of Duterte’s closest and most influential cabinet member, and Arroyo, whose return to power (he is now third in the line ofsuccession)was facilitated by Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
There are talks that Arroyo, who will no longer be a member of the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress after the May 2019 elections, is interested in Dominguez’s position. Arroyo’s denial is not categorical.
Asked if she would accept the finance position if offered to her, Arroyo, an economist merely said, “That’s so hypothetical.”
Even if she denied it, Arroyo is notorious for turning back on her words. On Dec. 29, 2002, she said while marking the death of Jose Rizal, that she will not run in the 2004 elections.
She ran in the cheating-marred 2004 elections against actor Fernando Poe, Jr.
She had also denied ambitions of becoming speaker of the House several times before she wrested the position from Duterte ally Pantaleon Alvarez last July 23 just before Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address.
Arroyo has been critical of the DOF’s unpopular Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN. When she called for abriefing by Finance officials of members of Congress on the TRAIN, Dominguez didn’t attend. Arroyo was reportedly furious of the snub.
Dominguez, in what is seen as a jab against Arroyo, recalled corruption-riddled loans from China during the Arroyo administration in replying to what he called “uninformed criticism” of the Duterte administration’s acceptance of Chinese loans for infrastructure projects.
Dominguez said the Philippines had learned its lessons from a past administration’s “scandalous mismanagement of Chinese financing.” He didn’t mention names but cited “ZTE” as an example.
The $329.5 million national broadband project with the Chinese firm, ZTE Corp is synonymous to corruption during the Arroyo administration allegedly involving Arroyo’s husband Mike Arroyo.
The NBN-ZTE deal was part of the $904.38 million package of investment from China that included the graft-ridden Northrail, Zhongxing Technology Equipment (ZTE) Diwalwal mining project. It was tied to the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) that would allow the Chinese access to explore in the Reed Bank, within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
The Arroyo-Dominguez feud has extended to the Diokno-Andaya squabble.
This is getting to be very interesting.