Prosecutors oppose Arroyo pleas, say they have proof
STATE prosecutors have asked the Sandiganbayan to set aside the separate petitions filed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seeking to dismiss the graft charges filed against her arising from the aborted $329-million national broadband network (NBN) project with China’s ZTE Corp.
In their opposition, the prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman told the antigraft court’s Fourth Division that Arroyo’s two motions for leave to file a demurrer should not be granted for lack of merit.
A demurrer to evidence is a pleading filed by an accused urging the court to junk a case over the failure of the prosecution to back up its accusations with strong evidence.
The Sandiganbayan previously threw out Arroyo’s similar petition in connection with the plunder case stemming from the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds.
Contrary to Arroyo’s claim, the prosecutors said they were able to present enough evidence to warrant her trial for the NBN-ZTE deal on two counts of violation of Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
They said that Arroyo, who won a third and last term as Pampanga representative in the May 9 election, showed a personal interest in the multimillion-dollar project when she joined Philippine government officials in a golf game with ZTE executives in Shenzhen, China, in 2006.
Besides the former president, also on the golf course were her husband, former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, then Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos, former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and then National Economic and Development Authority chief Romulo Neri.
Last month, the court absolved Abalos of any complicity in the broadband project after Ombudsman prosecutors failed to prove that he had brokered for ZTE to secure the contract.
“The prosecution sufficiently established that [Arroyo] accepted a gift or favor from ZTE in the form of a round of golf and lunch,” the prosecutors said in a motion dated June 15.
“It is incorrect to insist that the golf game and the lunch taken by Arroyo and her company were not substantial,” they said, adding that the monetary value of the golf game and the lunch should not be an issue.
Convicted for aircon
In fact, they said, the Supreme Court had upheld the conviction of a government employee for graft for receiving a used air conditioner as a gift from a private individual.
The prosecutors said the contact for the NBN project was “hurriedly processed and approved” after Arroyo played golf with the ZTE officials.
“All these facts lead to only one conclusion that indeed [Arroyo] became interested in the NBN-ZTE transaction for personal gain,” they argued.
In asking for the dismissal of the criminal charges, Arroyo said the government lawyers failed to prove the project was overpriced and disadvantageous to the government.
She said the cases against her were “a clear case of persecution rather than prosecution.”
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