Sandiganbayan dismisses NBN-ZTE graft case vs Arroyos

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2016 06:47 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the remaining NBN-ZTE deal graft case of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos. 

The demurrers to evidence of the three accused were granted and the case dismissed by the anti-graft court. 

The now Pampanga congresswoman had sought the dismissal of her ongoing graft case at the Sandiganbayan over the allegedly anomalous National Broadband Network (NBN)-ZTE telecommunications deal.

Based on the witnesses and pieces of evidence presented, Arroyo said in her demurrer to evidence motion that the prosecution fell short in proving her guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

She cited the prosecutors' failure to present the original and complete NBN contract, as the document showed before the court lacked several attachments.

She added the contract was not evidence since it was cancelled on October 2, 2007, and none of the conditions set was fulfilled.

Prosecutors also allegedly failed to prove that she had personal interest in the contract and that she had knowledge of Abalos' supposed attempt to bribe then Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri with P200 million for the immediate approval of the ZTE proposal, she said. 

Last May, Abalos was acquitted of graft in connection with the case.

The prosecution also allegedly failed to prove that the NBN contract was disadvantageous to the government, Arroyo argued.

She said a witness from NEDA testified that the contract was a reasonable investment. She also argued that the ZTE's 15-year re-payment period was less costly.

The prosecution, Arroyo said, also allegedly failed to prove the former president solicited a lunch or a golf game from ZTE. She added that the value of the supposed lunch and golf game from ZTE was insignificant to influence the deal.

"It is absurd to suggest that the fee for the golf game (and the lunch were) given in anticipation of or in exchange for the granting of a multi-billion peso project," her motion read.

Arroyo also saw nothing wrong in her presence in the signing of the NBN-ZTE contract.

"There is no such thing as an 'unnecessary presence' by the President of the Republic of the Philippines at a contract signing where one of the contracting parties is the Republic of the Philippines, especially when the contract involves a multi-billion national project and where the counter-party is a company owned by China, an important trading partner of the Philippines," she said. 

"President Benigno Aquino III himself has appeared at many such contract signings."