6th plunder case filed vs Arroyo

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Thursday, September 8, 2011


MANILA (Updated 11:08 a.m.) -- Former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is facing another plunder case, this time in connection with the botched deal with China’s Zhong Xing Telecommunications (ZTE) Corp.

Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño, Liza Maza of Gabriela, and Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan filed the case before the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday.

Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel "Mike", former Transportation and Communication secretary Leandro Mendoza, and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. were also named respondents in the case.

During Arroyo’s administration, the government signed the national broadband network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.

The $329-million deal was questioned for allegedly being overpriced to pay off bribes to government officials.

After a series of Senate committee investigations and junked impeachment cases against Arroyo over the NBN-ZTE project, the deal was eventually scrapped.

The complainants said they first filed a complaint at the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Arroyo but they withdrew the complaint, saying the DOJ "has not officially taken cognizance of the said letter complaint as it had transmitted the same to the defunct Truth Commission, and to instead file this present Joint Complaint-Affidavit with the new Ombudsman, with the inclusion of additional complainants and respondents above-named."

In the plunder case, the complainants stated that the accusations are based mainly on the facts gathered by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee during its investigation into the highly anomalous project.

“(The) complainants hope that with the appointment of the new Ombudsman, this particular complaint, among other complaints filed against the officials of the former administration for their involvement in graft and corruption, election fraud and human rights abuses, will be seriously and genuinely investigated and the perpetrators of such a large scale fraud will be expeditiously and seriously prosecuted. Impunity must end. It must end now,” the complainants stated.

During his second State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III appointed former Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman. Morales’s nomination was earlier opposed by the former President for allegedly being biased, citing the former's past decisions against the latter.

The NBN project aimed to interconnect all government offices throughout the country using high-speed broadband Internet.

A similar project is being considered by the Aquino administration called the Government Broadband Network. This time, however, local telecommunications providers will be tapped for the project.

Mike Arroyo was said to have benefited from the botched project after whistleblower Jose de Venecia III testified in a Senate hearing that the former threatened him to “back off” from the NBN deal.

De Venecia testified that the actual cost of ZTE’s proposal is only US$130 million but was later increased to US$262 million and would only cover 30 percent of the country.

Abalos was also implicated in the controversy after former National Economic and Development Authority director general Romulo Neri testified that the former offered him P200 million to approve the contract with ZTE.

Mendoza, meanwhile, signed the NBN project contract after the former President granted him full powers to do so. Arroyo herself witnessed the signing of the contract.

The former President is also facing five other plunder cases in connection to the P1.2 billion sale of the old Iloilo airport to Megaworld Corp., as well as cases of alleged misuse of various public funds, including P1.6 billion in fertilizer funds, P530 million in the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) funds, and funds from Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

Local news

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