State seeks guilty verdict for Abalos
MANILA, Philippines—Government prosecutors have sought the conviction in the Sandiganbayan of former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos in connection with the aborted $329-million NBN-ZTE deal in 2007.
In a 23-page memorandum submitted to the antigraft court’s Fourth Division, Ireneo Paldeng and Jacinto de la Cruz Jr. of the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor said they were able to prove that Abalos had brokered the national broadband network (NBN) project, having introduced China’s ZTE Corp. officials to then Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.
The prosecution said that Abalos, who then occupied a constitutional office, made a trip to China and instantly became the “fortunate recipient of acts of generosity and hospitality” from a corporation which eventually entered into a multibillion-peso contract with the government.
Such an act, it said, raised reasonable questions regarding the purpose of such generosity.
The case against Abalos stemmed from the exposé made by prosecution witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr. before the Senate blue ribbon committee where he revealed that the former Comelec chief had lobbied for ZTE Corp. to get the contract for the broadband project for a fee.
Lozada testified that he knew about the NBN deal because he was involved in the evaluation of the project as a technical adviser to then National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Romulo Neri.
Lozada also said that Abalos wanted to secure his $130 million, which Lozada understood to be a commission for the project.
He said the contract price for the project that was signed by the government was $329 million, or $67 million more than the $262 million evaluation which Lozada himself had made as a technical adviser for Neri.
The prosecution said that Abalos violated Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, by “directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any
business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
The Constitution likewise prohibits members of the Comelec from having a direct or indirect financial interest in any privilege granted by the government.
“Inevitably, a verdict of conviction must perforce be pronounced against accused Benjamin S. Abalos,” the prosecution said.
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