Ombudsman ends presentation of evidence vs Abalos

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 16 2014 08:16 AM | Updated as of Apr 16 2014 04:16 PM

MANILA - Lawyers from the Office of the Ombudsman have ended their presentation of evidence against former elections chief Benjamin Abalos Sr., who is being tried by the Sandiganbayan for graft in relation to the aborted $329-million national broadband network deal.

In a 23-page memorandum submitted last April 11, Prosecution Bureau 9 director Ireneo Paldeng and Assistant Special Prosecutor Jacinto dela Cruz Jr. expressed confidence that government lawyers were able to prove their case and the anti-graft court should convict Abalos.

Records show that the government lawyers were able to present 17 witnesses during the trial including whistle-blowers Joey de Venecia III; Rodolfo Noel Lozada; De Venecia’s father, former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.; and former National Economic Development Authority director general Romulo Neri.

Abalos’ lawyers responded by putting him on the witness stand to answer accusations that he brokered the deal for the firm ZTE Corp. in exchange for commissions.

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo are also facing graft charges for their alleged involvement in the deal.

In his testimony, Abalos said it was Speaker De Venecia and his son Joey who approached him first so he can get Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) connected with ZTE officials or representatives.

Abalos said he only knew the officials of the Chinese firm because of their common love for the game of golf.

Prosecutors, however, said the totality of all testimonies against Abalos clearly established his financial interests in the NBN-ZTE deal, which violates the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.