Mike Arroyo rejects Joey de Venecia claim in NBN-ZTE case
Former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo has described Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., as a polluted witness in an attempt to convince the court to dismiss his graft case in connection with the $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.
Arroyo filed his demurrer to evidence after the court allowed him and his wife, former President Gloria Arroyo, leave to file a legal remedy to dismiss the evidence presented against them by the prosecuting panel.
The 2007 NBN-ZTE project would have interconnected government offices nationwide through broadband technology.
In his demurrer, Arroyo said the prosecution failed to prove that he used his influence and position to fast track the approval of the NBN contract with ZTE.
He said none of the prosecution witnesses testified that they saw Arroyo in “dubious meetings” with former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos, De Venecia and ZTE officials in connection with discussions about the alleged pay-offs in exchange for the contract.
The only evidence linking Arroyo to the project was his alleged statement “Back off!” to De Venecia, then the president and owner of Amsterdam Holdings Inc., which was also a prospective bidder with a lower bid price.
Arroyo’s supposed statement to De Venecia during a casual meeting at Wack-Wack in March 2007 was intended for Amsterdam to back off the bidding to make ZTE the winning bidder.
But Arroyo said the prosecution failed to present any more witness that would corroborate his supposed encounter with De Venecia.
“No one will corroborate De Venecia III’s ‘back-‘off’ claim because no one can. And no one can, simply because it did not happen,” Arroyo’s demurrer read.
Arroyo turned the tables on De Venecia whom he said was not a “credible” witness because “he did not come into the NBN project with clean hands.”
He said De Venecia also used his influence and the name of his father, who was then Speaker, to gain undue advantage in the broadband project.
De Venecia admitted in court that his technology consultant sent a letter to the late Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza about Speaker De Venecia’s instructions to forward to Mendoza the endorsement letter for Amsterdam’s proposal.
De Venecia admitted in court that the mention of his father’s name was improper.
“For all his pretensions of integrity, De Venecia III used his father’s influence to gain unwarranted advantage in the NBN project,” the demurrer said.
Arroyo also said De Venecia, despite meeting with Abalos and ZTE officials about the agreement for payoffs, still went on to have dinner with them later.
“De Venecia declared righteous indignation after Abalos supposedly demanded money from ZTE officials insinuating corruption,” his demurrer said.
Arroyo also said the prosecution failed to prove the existence of the contract, only presenting to court a photocopy of the contract with ZTE.
“As there is no juridical contract that may be scrutinized by this Honorable Court against graft standards, the prosecution must obviously fail,” his demurrer said.
Arroyo said there is no need for him to present witnesses in his defense because the prosecution failed to prove its case against him.
He said De Venecia cried foul only because he lost in the bidding for the project.
“If Joey can’t have it, no one can. There is therefore nothing but a case of Biblical Envy … one of the Seven Deadly Sins probably because it consumes people, and it pushes them to do unjust acts. Jose Miguel has been a victim of that injustice for five years,” his demurrer said.
Arroyo said he is asking the court to “put an end to this” and render a judgment of acquittal as stated in the rules of court.
Arroyo was a coaccused in the graft case of his wife, who was charged with two counts of graft for approving the deal despite being disadvantageous to government and despite knowing its irregularities. She was also accused of having personal gain in the contract.
The former President is under hospital detention for plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of P366 million in charity funds for personal gain.
She was also charged with one count of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees or Republic Act No. 6713 for having lunch and playing golf with ZTE officials while the broadband project proposal was still being assessed by government.
The former first gentleman and Abalos were charged with graft for allegedly using their influence to facilitate the approval of the project.
Abalos has been acquitted in a separate graft case for allegedly brokering the deal with China in exchange for a $130-million commission.
Abalos was found not guilty of violating Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which penalizes having financial and pecuniary interest in the transaction between government and the Chinese corporation ZTE.
The court said the prosecution failed to prove that Abalos lobbied the deal for a fee, adding that the prosecution was only able to prove that Abalos brokered the deal between Amsterdam’s De Venecia and ZTE, and not between government and China’s ZTE.
Abalos was accused of bribing De Venecia with $10 million for his firm to back out from the project so that ZTE would bag the contract.
Abalos would later ask De Venecia for a partnership with ZTE for the latter to supply the transmission equipment, which De Venecia later ruled out, opting to continue its project proposal for the broadband deal./rga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.