Arroyo allowed to skip in NBN-ZTE trial-A A +A
Thursday, October 28, 2010
MANILA (Updated 12:02 p.m.) -- An anti-graft court upheld on Thursday the petition of Representative Gloria Arroyo not to testify before the graft trial of former socioeconomic secretary Romulo Neri.
In its four-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan ruled that former President Arroyo may not be forced to appear in court as witness in Neri's trial in connection with the government's botched $329-million national broadband network (NBN) project with China's Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) Corp. in 2007.
Arroyo’s camp earlier received the subpoena issued by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court requiring her presence in Neri’s trial but Arroyo, through her lawyer Estelito Mendoza, has asked the court to nullify it.
The court ruled: “It is clear that the movant (Arroyo) is being investigated on matters related to the NBN-ZTE deal. There is no question that movant is being accused of having committed illegal acts in connection with the NBN-ZTE deal, and that these illegal acts are subject of investigation in different venues. Wherefore, for being meritorious, the ‘Motion to Quash Subpoena Issued on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’ dated October 7, 2010 is hereby granted.”
Mendoza said the former president cannot be compelled to appear in the trial and has the right to remain silent since she is a respondent of the two pending investigations on the broadband deal.
Arroyo was called to take the witness stand by the prosecutors but the court said Arroyo’s right to keep her silence is provided under Article III, Section 12 of the Constitution.
In April, the Office of the Ombudsman recommended the filing of graft charges against Neri and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos for their alleged involvement in the government's controversial deal with China's ZTE Corp.
The Ombudsman affirmed the recommendation in late May.
On June 21, the Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division issued an arrest warrant against Neri, who posted a bail of P30,000 for his temporary liberty.
Sandiganbayan later issued a hold-departure order, allowing his arrest in case he attempts to leave the country.
Both Abalos and Neri were charged with violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Abalos supposedly offered Neri a P200-million bribe so that the then economic chief would endorse the ZTE contract. The former election official, however, vehemently denied the charge. (Sunnex)