Prosecutors insist: GMA must testify in ZTE case


Posted at Oct 12 2010 04:41 PM | Updated as of Oct 13 2010 12:41 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Government prosecutors are protesting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's plea not to testify in the graft trial of former Planning Secretary Romulo Neri in relation to the scrapped P329 million ZTE-National Broadband Network project. 
In a 5-page comment filed before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division, acting deputy special prosecutor John I. C. Turalba and assistant special prosecutors Joefferson B. Toribio and Kristine Jennifer E. Carreon asked the graft court to junk Arroyo’s motion seeking quashal of the subpoena issued on her last September 8.
“It is a basic dictum, as contained in the rules of evidence, that persons who can perceive and perceiving, can make their known perception to others, may be witnesses. Certainly, movant possesses the qualification and none of the disqualification to be a witness. It is worth emphasizing that movant is not an accused in the above-captioned case and as such will be presented as an ordinary witness,” the prosecution panel said.
Arroyo, now Pampanga 2nd District representative, invoked her right to remain silent as a ground in her motion to quash. Her lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, argued that Arroyo cannot be forced to appear in court, much less submit to cross-examination, since she is still a respondent in at least two ongoing investigations concerning the same ZTE deal.

The 2 other complaints were filed by a group led by University of the Philippines–College of Law professor Harry Roque before the Office of the Ombudsman and by Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño before the Department of Justice.
But prosecutors pointed out that Arroyo is discerning enough to recognize questions that would have any bearing on the pending complaints against her.
“Movant’s claim invoking the tier of protection bestowed to an accused is, thus, misplaced. The purpose of the prosecution in offering the testimony of Hon. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will only be limited to her stint as chairman of the National Economic Development Authority at the time of the commission of the crime stated in the information and during which the accused, Romulo L. Neri, was the Director-General,” the prosecutors said.
Neri was accused of having unlawful financial interest in the ZTE deal as supposedly shown when he sent National Forest Corporation president Noel ‘Jun’ Lozada as his stand-in in the negotiations even if the latter had no connection whatsoever with NEDA.
In a separate seven-page motion filed through lawyer Paul P. Lentejas, Neri asked the graft court to admit into the records two documents pertaining to the charge of "corruption of public officials" filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos before the Mandaluyong City Metropolitan Trial Court.
The documents were the information sheet and the motion for withdrawal of information wherein the Ombudsman admitted its mistake in filing the case with the MTC saying it was the Sandiganbayan that has exclusive and original jurisdiction over the matter.
Neri said the two documents are important in his defense since they bound the Ombudsman on the theory that it was Abalos who committed an offense by offering him a P200 million bribe.