Sandiganbayan dismisses ZTE graft cases against Arroyo

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ACQUITED. Former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Photo by Planet Philippines

THE  Sandiganbayan has dismissed the graft cases against former President and now House Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the alleged anomalous USD 329-M National Broadband Network-ZTE contract signed during her term as Chief Executive.

The Sandiganbayan granted Mrs. Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence, a motion to dismiss a case based on insufficiency of the evidence presented by the prosecution, saying that the prosecution “did not sufficiently prove the guilt of the accused.”

Atty. Laurence Arroyo, the former president’s counsel, told reporters on Friday that Mrs. Arroyo has been “vindicated anew.”

He said that Rep. Arroyo “has always kept her faith in the judiciary and our courts have not failed to fearlessly render justice.”

Demurrers

He added that the granting of the demurrers prove that the cases filed against the former President Arroyo were weak.

In July this year, the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed a graft case against Mrs. Arroyo over her alleged misuse of Php 366 million in confidential intelligence funds (CIFs) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) when she was the President.

Mrs. Arroyo was released from hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City on July 21, 2016.

She had been under hospital arrest at the VMMC due to her debilitating bone disease since 2012.

In June this year, Mrs. Arroyo’s lawyers asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the case — the last graft case she is facing — claiming that the prosecutors failed to prove that the contract signed with China’s ZTE Corporation in 2007 was grossly disadvantageous to the government for allegedly being overpriced.

Proper review process

The camp of Mrs. Arroyo said that the former President did not facilitate or fast-track the approval of the project to put up a government communications network since it went through a proper review process by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“This is a clear case of persecution rather than prosecution. The NEDA board unanimously approved the NBN project upon the recommendation of the NEDA Infrastructure staff, NEDA ICC secretariat and NEDA technical board,” Mrs. Arroyo’s lawyers said in June.

“Yet, the Ombudsman maliciously singled out the former president for approving a contract that is supposedly grossly disadvantageous to the government. It is the NEDA board, not the president of the Philippines, which has the power to approve projects such as the NBN project,” they added.

— Philippines News Agency

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