MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos from his graft charge over the NBN-ZTE deal.
The anti-graft court Fourth Division said there is no strong evidence showing that Abalos brokered the national broadband network (NBN) project with China in exchange for a commission.
Prosecutors had alleged that Abalos introduced China’s ZTE Corp. officials to then Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, and received "acts of generosity and hospitality" from a corporation that eventually bagged a $329-million contract with the government.
The graft case stemmed from allegations by whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada Jr., who served as technical adviser on the project.
Lozada accused Abalos of wanting to secure $130 million as commission for the project.
The whistleblower also said the $329-million contract was overpriced by $67 million, based on the $262 million evaluation he made.
Co-accused in the case is former President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, who allegedly approved the deal despite knowing its irregularities.
Arroyo was also accused of having lunch and playing golf with ZTE officials while their proposal was still being assessed by government.
READ: 'GMA, Abalos, JDV were waiting for NBN-ZTE commissions'
The former president later dropped the project which would have connected all government agencies through a broadband network. -- With a report from Dennis Datu, dzMM