Neri refuses to testify vs Arroyo
MANILA, Philippines - Former Planning Secretary Romulo L Neri has asked the Sandiganbayan to quash the subpoena issued him last August 24, which required him to appear before the graft court on October 1 and 2 as a prosecution witness in the graft trial of former President now Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The case concerns the US$329-M National Broadband Network project (NBN) previously awarded in 2007 to Chinese contractor, Zhing Xing Telecommunications Equipment Inc. (ZTE), but later rescinded by Arroyo after reports of massive irregularities surfaced.
Neri invoked his constitutional right to remain silent on grounds that he was named defendant in a separate graft case also arising from the NBN-ZTE deal.
Prosecutors claimed that as director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Neri showed “financial or pecuniary interest" in the transaction by naming Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada as his emissary or representative in the negotiations for the NBN project.
Defense lawyer Paul Lentejas said Neri cannot be compelled to testify against Arroyo as his case filed in the same court is related with the latter's.
“Whatever testimony which movant may give in this case could and would be easily used by the prosecution against (him),” Lentejas argued.
He noted that both cases stemmed from the same complaints filed by Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño and lawyer Harry Roque.
The argument is the same one earlier used by lawyers of Rep. Arroyo to get the court to quash the subpoena for her to testify against Neri.
In a resolution dated Oct 28, 2010, the graft court ruled in favor of Arroyo and declared that “her right to remain silent, in any venue, is absolute, and this cannot be taken against her” because she is a respondent in a criminal complaint then pending at the Office of the Ombudsman.
On the same grounds, Lentejas said Neri’s right should be respected.
“The right to remain silent by any person under investigation for a crime is absolute. He need not answer any question propounded to him and he may not be summoned unless he waives that right,” the defense said.
On Oct 27, 2010, Neri testified for the prosecution in the graft trial of former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos wherein he reiterated his claim that the poll official offered him P200 million in exchange for NEDA’s approval of the ZTE proposal.
Lentejas said Neri’s testimony in the Abalos trial and his 11-hour long grilling by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Sept 26, 2007 has been exhaustive and substantial enough “to pin any criminal liability upon all the accused.”
While there are matters not touched upon by either testimonies particularly his conversations with then President Arroyo, the defense said such are covered by executive privilege.
“Thus, movant is now politely refusing to testify against former President Macapagal-Arroyo invoking executive privilege or more particularly ‘presidential communication privilege’,” he said. - Rappler.com
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- Sandiganbayan: Why was Arroyo released?
- Arroyo bail: Forgive and forget?
- Arroyo, 9 others charged with plunder
- Comelec broke rules to charge Arroyo
- Graft court summons Arroyo doctors
- Court stops plunder hearing vs Arroyo
- Witness vs Arroyo credible, says Comelec