GMA seeks dismissal of NBN-ZTE grafts raps

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Reelected Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the graft charges filed against her in connection with the allegedly anomalous national broadband network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp. during her term as president.

Arroyo said the case should be dismissed for failure of the prosecution to prove its accusations against her halfway through the trial.

In two separate motions, Arroyo’s lawyers led by Jesi Howard Lanete asked the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division for permission to file a demurer to evidence, saying the former president was being persecuted for a crime she did not commit.

Arroyo’s counsels said ombudsman prosecutors failed to present the original copy of the contract between the government and ZTE Corp. that was signed in China.

“In contemplation of law, there is no contract to speak of after Arroyo cancelled the $329-million deal on Oct. 2, 2007,” the motion read.

Citing jurisprudence in the case of Duterte versus Sandiganbayan in April 1998, defense counsels said the Supreme Court held that “a rescinded contract is a non-existent contract and, hence, cannot be a basis for filing charges of violation of Section 3 of Republic Act 3019.”

Arroyo’s camp said the prosecution failed to prove that the contract was grossly disadvantageous to the government for allegedly being overpriced.

Defense lawyers said the former president did not facilitate or fast track the approval of the NBN project because it actually went through several layers of review as admitted by the prosecution’s witnesses from 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,” Arroyo’s lawyers said.

“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,” defense counsels added.

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