MANILA, Philippines – Detained former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr will be arraigned Wednesday morning, April 11, before the Sandiganbayan on corruption charges.
This is in connection with the scrapped US$329 million national broadband network (NBN) project.
Mrs Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga’s second district, was indicted on two counts of graft and one for violation of RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, on allegations that she used the presidency to push the proposal of a Chinese firm, ZTE Inc., to undertake the NBN project.
Mr Arroyo, Abalos and former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza were named co-accused in the first graft charge.
Defense lawyer Jose Flaminiano said the former President is ready for the court procedure. “We will be there. She (Arroyo) has not given us any instruction to seek a postponement,” he said in a phone interview.
Edna Batacan, counsel for Mr Mike Arroyo, said her client is also ready to submit his plea to the charges. “We are ready. Tuloy kami,” she said.
Mendoza still sick
Of all the defendants, it was only Mendoza who has asked the court for a one-month deferment of arraignment, saying he has not yet fully recovered from a stroke last March 18.
His lawyer, Alexander Poblador, informed the graft court that the former Cabinet official is still confined at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
“He is presently very weak and finds it difficult to even stand up or speak. Accused requests that the 11 April 2012 arraignment be postponed and re-set to 11 May 2012, at 8:30 a.m. or to such other date and time at the Honorable Court’s convenience. This would allow accused to regain his strength and physical faculties as to allow him to personally appear and be arraigned,” Mendoza’s lawyer said.
According to court officials, less than 100 persons will have the opportunity to witness the proceedings in Arroyo’s graft trial as the court’s fourth division has no plan to provide additional seats beyond the courtroom’s 80 chairs.
The number does not include 5 chairs each for members of the defense and the prosecution; 4 for court personnel including the clerk of court, bailiff and stenographer; and 3 for members of the bench.
The fourth division is composed of Associate Justices Jose Hernandez, Ma. Cristina Cornejo and Gregory Ong, the division chair.
A senior court official said crowd-control units will also be deployed outside the Sandiganbayan compound as pro and anti-Arroyo groups are expected to show up. – Rappler.com