Lawmaker won’t cut Arroyo slack in NBN-ZTE case
A militant lawmaker said he will block any attempt by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to delay the plunder case filed against her in connection with the scuttled $329 million National Broadband Network-ZTE deal.
“The Filipino people have waited long enough. In fact, the Ombudsman already allowed GMA (Arroyo) an extension to file her counteraffidavit due to her illness and that should be sufficient time already,” said Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teodoro Casiño, adding that the case should be resolved “at the soonest time possible.”
The NBN-ZTE case, the sixth plunder charge slapped against Arroyo, was filed by Casiño, along with Bayan Carol Pagaduan-Araullo and Makabayan vice president Liza Maza, in the Office of the Ombudsman in September.
Arroyo has until Monday to submit her counteraffidavit but Casiño expects Arroyo’s lawyers to file yet another request for an extension even after being granted a 30-day extension last month.
Arroyo is accused of favoring the Chinese telecom company ZTE allegedly because over P1 billion in bribes and kickbacks from the deal were earmarked for her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, and former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos, who is included along with Arroyo in a more recent charge—election sabotage.
Arroyo denied the charge, stressing that she cancelled the NBN-ZTE contract when the scandal broke out.
The antiplunder law defines plunder as the direct or indirect amassing by a public official of at least P50 million in ill-gotten wealth through a combination or a series of acts like misappropriating public funds and illegal disposition of government assets. It is a nonbailable offense.
Casiño said they would file an urgent motion asking the Ombudsman to resolve the plunder case and to file it immediately in the Sandiganbayan.
“The wheels of justice must be at its fastest during these times considering that we are dealing with someone who ruled with cunning and ruthlessness for almost a decade, who used anything and everything to remain in power and to plunder the people’s coffers,” said Casiño.
He also urged the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to expedite another plunder charge involving the reported diversion of PCSO funds to Malacañang.
The Senate blue ribbon committee heard testimony earlier this year that Arroyo approved the diversion of hundreds of millions in charity funds for possibly nonexistent projects and intelligence operations from 2008 to 2010.