Ombudsman affirms graft charges vs GMA in ZTE deal
Ombudsman affirms graft charges vs Mrs Arroyo but drops motion to upgrade case to plunder

MANILA, Philippines – The Ombudsman has affirmed criminal indictments against former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her 3 co-accused concerning alleged unlawful intervention to push for approval of the US$329-M offer of Chinese firm ZTE Inc to implement the national broadband network project.

Arroyo is facing 2 counts of graft and one for violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards last Dec. 28, 2011 on allegations that she used the presidency to push for the approval of the ZTE project despite having been informed of irregularities in the  proposal.

Named co-defendants in the first graft case were Mrs Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

While the anti-graft body upheld the original charges, it however junked a motion for reconsideration filed by complainants Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Carol Araullo that prayed for upgrading of the cases to plunder, a non-bailable offense.

“Contrary to the claim of the complainants, the sworn statement of Dante Madriaga cannot by itself establish all the elements of the crime of Plunder alleged to have been committed by former President Arroyo in conspiracy with her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, along with Mr. Abalos and Mr. Mendoza. Such a charge cannot rest solely on a verbal allegation but must be substantiated by further proof of direct participation,” the Ombudsman said in a 19-page resolution submitted yesterday to the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division.

The resolution was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on recommendations of Assistant Special Prosecutors Louella Mae Oco Pesquera, Jacinto M. dela Cruz Jr and Marlon N. Ramos.

Abalos and Arroyo, who’s now detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center on a charge of electoral sabotage, did not file motions for reconsideration when the Ombudsman filed the cases last December 28.

Mendoza and Mr Arroyo questioned the basis for the graft case against them primarily on the ground that the NBN-ZTE deal was eventually rescinded hence the government suffered no injury.

Mendoza likewise argued that he had no direct participation in the negotiations for the contract noting that allegations of bribery surfaced when the deal was still being handled by the Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) and before the DOTC entered the picture.

Mr Arroyo said he should not have been implicated because he was a private person and was not a contracting party or a representative of one relative to the NBN-ZTE project.

The Ombudsman however said the cancellation of the contract appeared to have been a mere afterthought and an attempt by the defendants to avoid criminal liability. –

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