Arroyo lawyer nixes consolidation of charges in NBN deal case
MANILA, Philippines—Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lawyer opposed in court Friday the consolidation of three different charges against her in connection with the corruption scandal that led to the scuttling of a $329-million national broadband network contract with the Chinese ZTE Corp.
Lawyer Estelito Mendoza told the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division that the consolidation of two cases for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and one case for violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees violated her rights as an accused.
While these are consolidated into one case, the accused is exposed to “possible conviction” on three crimes, said Mendoza, counsel for Arroyo, who now represents Pampanga’s second district in the House of Representatives.
“In our view, the consolidation of cases is not allowed. It violates the constitutional requirement that an accused shall be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him and that an information can charge only one offense,” Mendoza later told reporters, echoing what he said in court.
Hence, the consolidation was “prejudicial” to Arroyo, he said.
The lawyers for the other accused, Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, also adopted Mendoza’s position. A fourth accused is former Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos Jr.
Justice Gregory Ong, chair of the division, gave the prosecution 15 days to comment on the defense motion for reconsideration of the consolidation of the cases.
Arroyo was charged with two counts of graft and one count of violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards. Mike Arroyo, Abalos and Mendoza were charged along with her in one of the graft cases.
The national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp. was canceled in 2008 by then President Arroyo after a Senate inquiry showed that the project was overpriced and that some high officials had received kickbacks. The contract was originally priced at $130 million.
Arroyo is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City on separate charges of electoral sabotage, which carry no provision for bail.
Ong also gave the defense five days to reply to the prosecution’s opposition to their earlier motion for the production of evidence against Arroyo and her co-accused in preparation for a pre-trial conference.
The prosecution had argued that the documents being sought by the defense were already in the possession of the court, and that the discretion on whether to allow the production of evidence lay with the court.
“I don’t understand why the prosecution opposes that. It’s the essence of a criminal case that the prosecution is not out to convict but to ferret out the truth. If they have statements favorable or unfavorable to the accused so that the accused may properly prepare for trial, then they should provide those to the accused,” Mendoza said.