Ex-FG Arroyo: What plunder?

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2011 02:32 PM | Updated as of Sep 09 2011 06:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo on Thursday denied he and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo committed plunder in the US$329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese telecommunications firm, ZTE Corp.

In a statement to media, Arroyo said, “We are being accused of plunder in the ZTE contract but the public should be reminded that it was cancelled by the former President before it could be implemented. Since it was cancelled, there was no injury to the government. There was also no personal gain whatsoever. So where is plunder there? “

Arroyo said the previous Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, already cleared him and his wife of the same charges in 2009.

The Ombudsman earlier ruled that President Arroyo could not be prosecuted because of immunity laws that protect her from lawsuits while in office. She absolved the former First Gentleman due to lack of evidence that he attempted to guide the contract to a preferred bidder.

Citing a principle in law, the former first gentleman said he wants the cases dropped.

“The issues on the NBN-ZTE deal had already been heard and passed upon by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2009. I and the former President have already been cleared of the same charges being filed now. Clearly a case of admistrative res judicata which could and should be dismissed outright,” he said.

Arroyo said the new plunder case filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza and Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of  Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) was “all in the name of media mileage."

"Without a doubt, these leftist groups are doing this not so much to seek justice as they so claim but solely for publicity because they know this case will not prosper," he added.

Arroyo even noted that the same case was already filed with the justice department.

“Lest we forget, these are the same groups that also filed a complaint against the former president with the [Department of Justice] with respect to the same issue. It is quite obvious that these groups are milking the issue for all its worth. All these allegations against us are good only for the headlines but have absolutely no substance," he said.

The legal spokesperson of Mrs. Arroyo echoed her husband’s sentiment.

In a statement to media, lawyer Raul Lambino said, “The NBN-ZTE contract was cancelled by GMA, and there was no damage or loss incurred by government in that aborted transaction. Again, this is another political grandstanding by said groups to keep on persecuting the Arroyos in media in order to advance their respective agendas."