MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said the graft case the Ombudsman filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a welcome step to getting closure on past controversies.
“The NBN-ZTE [deal] has been an issue for a long time. The Filipino people have long been waiting for closure and this is the process by which we, as a people, can get closure,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a mix of English and Filipino during a Palace press briefing.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed a graft case against Arroyo on Wednesday, Dec. 28, over the botched National Broadband Deal with China’s ZTE Corp. The case was filed before the Sandiganbayan.
Aside from Arroyo, the Ombudsman sued her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza with graft. The anti-graft court will raffle the case on January 2.
The cases were based on plunder charges earlier filed before the Ombudsman by Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chairperson Carol Araullo.
The Ombudsman, however, only approved the filing of graft charges. Unlike plunder, graft is a bailable offense. Bail has been set at P70,000 for former President Arroyo, and total of P30,000 for all her co-accused.
Valte cannot say why the case was downgraded from plunder to graft.
“I don’t know what evidence was taken into account, what the circumstances were. It’s better that we see first the actual resolution recommending the filing [of charges] before I can make a comment on the propriety of the charge alleged.”
The former president is currently detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City in relation to a separate charge of electoral sabotage filed against her over the 2007 senatorial polls. Abalos faces similar charges and is also detained at the Southern Police District in Taguig City.
This is the first case Ombudsman Conchito-Carpio Morales filed against Arroyo since President Benigno Aquino III appointed her in July. Morales, a former Supreme Court associate justice, replaced Merceditas Gutierrez who was impeached by the House of Representatives in March.
Gutierrez was accused of sitting on cases filed against Arroyo. Gutierrez and Mike Arroyo were classmates in law school. She resigned before the impeachment trial at the Senate even began. – Rappler.com