• GMA seeks dismissal of graft cases

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    Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has sought the dismissal of the graft cases filed against her in connection with the botched $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal saying, among others, that the prosecution “failed” to prove its allegations.

    Arroyo’s defense lawyers have filed two separate seven-page motions asking permission from the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division to file a demurrer to evidence.

    A demurrer is a motion to dismiss filed by a defendant after the prosecution completes its turn to present evidence.

    A demurrer submits the case for judgment based only on the prosecution’s evidence on the ground that the said evidence does not warrant conviction.

    If a demurrer is thumbed down, the defense would have to present its own evidence.

    One of Arroyo’s motions seeking permission to file a demurrer to evidence was for case no. 0467 which is for violation of Section 3(g) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

    Also named respondents in this case were her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr.

    Her other motion was for case nos. 0468 to 0469 which are for violation of Section 3(i) of RA 3019 and Section 7(d) of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, respectively, where she is a sole respondent.

    Both motions cited several grounds for asking the court’s permission to file a demurrer.

    According to Arroyo’s lawyers, “the prosecution failed to prove that President Arroyo ‘became interested, for personal gain, in the approval of the National Broadband Project, a contract or transaction that requires the approval of the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) of which she is the Chairperson on the Board, as proposed by Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment International Investment Limited (ZTE).’”

    The prosecution likewise failed to prove that Arroyo knew of Abalos’ alleged attempt to bribe former NEDA Director General Romulo Neri with P200 million for the immediate approval of the ZTE proposal, they said.

    The prosecution also failed to prove the supposed haste with which the deal was approved by the government, the defense said.

    According to her lawyers, Arroyo “did not ‘facilitate’ or ‘fast-track’ the approval of the NBN project. The NBN project went through several layers of review.”

    The defense also pointed out that no one brought any supposed irregularity or anomaly to the NEDA Board’s attention, which thus negated any criminal intent.

    “This is a clear case of persecution rather than prosecution. It was the NEDA Board that unanimously approved the NBN project. Yet, the Ombudsman maliciously singled out President Arroyo for supposedly ‘becoming interested’ ‘for personal gain’ in the approval of the NBN project,” her lawyers said.

    As to the breach of conduct case Arroyo is facing, they said that she did not solicit any golf game from ZTE and that the prosecution failed to prove that the firm paid for it.

    Also, the defense said that the NBN contract dated April 21, 2007 was inadmissible as evidence because it was not authenticated.

    In addition, it said that the prosecution did not present the original of contract and that the contract presented by the prosecution was incomplete and lacked several attachments.

    Even if the deal was admissible, the defense argued, it never became effective because Arroyo canceled it on October 2, 2007.

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