MANILA, Philippines - Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos may become as elusive as ever before, even in his own graft case proceedings before the Sandiganbayan.
Abalos, who was linked to the mothballed $329-million NBN-ZTE telecommunications deal, executed a waiver of appearance that means he would no longer attend future hearings there.
He assured the anti-graft court that he will comply if summoned. He noted, however, that the trial can still proceed in absentia if he fails to heed a subpoena.
Abalos also stressed that he cannot travel abroad without the court’s nod.
“(I) will strictly abide by the foregoing undertaking during the entire proceedings of this case until its final termination,” Abalos said.
Abalos was accused of intervening in the botched deal on behalf of Chinese telecommunications firm, ZTE Corp.
In his arraignment last August 10, Abalos pleaded “not guilty.”
He said he only knows ZTE executives because of their common love for golf.
The trial was supposed to commence on October 11. The prosecution got former Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri and newspaperman Jarius Bondoc as its first witnesses.
Abalos succeeded in getting a deferment due to the withdrawal by the Office of the Ombudsman of a separate case for corruption of public officials earlier filed with the Mandaluyong City Metropolitan Trial Court.
The trial will resume on October 27 and 28.