MANILA - The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has given former president and now-Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the green light to submit a demurrer to evidence for her graft and breach of code of conduct cases over the allegedly anomalous National Broadband Network-ZTE deal.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss the case for lack of sufficient evidence to convict the accused. Based on the Rules on Criminal Procedure, the accused may file a demurrer after the prosecution rests its case.
Arroyo is accused of conspiring with spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo, former poll chief Benjamin Abalos, Sr. and former transportation secretary Leandro Mendoza of conspiring to fast-track the approval of the "overpriced" $329 million NBN contract to Chinese telecommunications firm, ZTE, on April 20, 2007.
The project would have supposedly improved the Philippine government's communications capabilities. However, the contract was cancelled in October 2007 due to irregularities.
Five years since the case was filed in 2011, the Arroyo spouses and Abalos asked Sandiganbayan to allow them file a demurrer after the prosecution finished presenting their evidence and witnesses last March 1, 2016.
In a resolution served on Friday, the Sandiganbayan ruled to grant their request, and gave them 10 days to file a demurrer.
Meanwhile, the initial presentation of the defense's evidence on July 20 and 21 are cancelled until the court has resolved the demurrer.
Atty. Laurence Arroyo, one of the former president's lawyers, said that the granting of the demurrer means the acquittal of Mrs. Arroyo.
"It gives us the opportunity to demonstrate that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proving its case beyond reasonable doubt. It gives us an opportunity to finally bring to an end this case," Atty. Arroyo said.
Aside from this, the former president also submitted a motion to the Supreme Court Wednesday, asking the justices to resolve the petition to dismiss her plunder case over the alleged illegal diversion of P365.9 million in intelligence/confidential funds of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.