Arroyo officials asked to testify
MANILA, Philippines - Government prosecutors have asked the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division to issue subpoenas on 2 former members of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Cabinet to get their testimonies in the ongoing graft trial of former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin S. Abalos Sr.
Assistant special prosecutor Sesinio N. Belen Jr. requested that 5 witnesses led by former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and former Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila be ordered to appear before the graft court on March 5 and 6, so they can be called to testify in the Abalos case.
The other 3 being sought by the prosecution are Courage (a government employees' union) national president Ferdinand Gaite, engineer Dante Madriaga and businessman Ruben Reyes.
Abalos is undergoing trial on allegations that he interceded unlawfully for and in behalf of Chinese firm, Zhing Xing Telecommunications Equipment Inc. (ZTE), to enable it to corner the national broadband network project in exchange for hefty commissions in 2007.
Teves and Favila were members of Arroyo’s official family during the negotiations and approval of the NBN-ZTE deal with the former finance secretary having spoken previously that he was introduced to executives of the Chinese firm at Wack-wack Golf and Country Club while the project was still under review.
Madriaga was among the witnesses who appeared at the Senate inquiry into allegations of irregularity and overpricing in the US$329-M NBN-ZTE project. He claimed huge sums of money changed hands to ensure that the ZTE proposal will be approved.
Madriaga and whistleblower Noel ‘Jun’ Lozada both linked Reyes to the NBN-ZTE deal, saying the businessman was a golf buddy of Abalos and had some part in the negotiations.
Their testimonies would only be offered in the Abalos case as the indictments against former President Arroyo, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza are still being reviewed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
A separate graft case against former Planning Secretary Romulo Neri has been ordered consolidated with the charge against Abalos but Neri has lodged an appeal. - Rappler.com