Graft cases vs Arroyo over NBN-ZTE deal junked

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Sandiganbayan on Friday, September 16, junked the remaining graft cases against former president and now Pampanga 2nd district Representative Gloria Arroyo involving the botched $329-million National Broadband Network-ZTE deal (NBN-ZTE deal) in 2007.

In two separate resolutions, the anti-graft court ruled that the evidence presented by the prosecution "did not sufficiently" prove the guilt of Arroyo in the allegedly overpriced deal. The Sandiganbayan junked the 3 graft cases filed against the former president and one graft case against her husband, former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr.

The Ombudsman earlier accused Arroyo of violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Sandiganbayan's 4th Division was unanimous in deciding that the prosecution failed to establish that the contract with NBN-ZTE was grossly disadvantageous to government. It also said there was not enough proof to claim that Arroyo was motivated by personal gain when, as chair of the National Economic and Development Authority, she okayed the deal.

Neither was there enough evidence that there was conspiracy to commit fraud, the anti-graft court said. Further, the court said the charges against the accused is fatally defective because when the charges were filed in 2011, the contract had already been cancelled by the Arroyo government owing to allegations of corruption.

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Vindication

Laurence Arroyo, the former president's legal counsel, welcomed the news.

He said his client has been vindicated again by the ruling.

"Former President Arroyo has been vindicated anew. She has always kept faith in the judiciary and our courts have not failed to fearlessly render justice," he said in a statement.

The Supreme Court had also dismissed the case against the former president involving the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds.

The civil case filed by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) against Mrs Arroyo was also junked last week.

For her camp, the consecutive favorable rulings "show just how weak the cases are."

"Our courts have not allowed themselves to be swayed by public opinion or perception. They are bound by the evidence and the evidence along," he said. 

The Sandiganbayan already dismissed the graft case against former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos and former socioeconomic planning secretary Romulo Neri. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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