THE camp of Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elated and grateful to the Sandiganbayan for its latest ruling which effectively dismissed her last pending graft case.
“It’s a well reasoned decision. We are thankful to the Sandiganbayan,” Arroyo’s legal counsel Laurence Arroyo said in a statement, and urged people to read the decision to understand that the former President is really now a free individual, free of all criminal charges.
On Friday night, the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division granted two demurrers to evidence — one filed by Arroyo and one she filed with husband former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos — for the graft and ethics case lodged against them in connection with the botched $329-million national broadband network (NBN) contract with China’s Zhong Xing Telecommunciations Equipment (ZTE) Corp. during her term as president
The granting of demurrers to evidence means the anti-graft court junked the evidence presented by the prosecution panel.
“President Arroyo has been vindicated anew. She has always kept her faith in the judiciary and our courts have not allowed themselves to be swayed by public opinion or perception,” lawyer Arroyo’s statement said.
The first two graft cases of the former president were already dismissed, the first was regarding the intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and second the civil case filed by the UCCP.
“The granting of the demurrer shows just how weak the cases filed against her are,” Atty. Arroyo added.
Last July, the Supreme Court also ordered the release of Arroyo from detention due to the weak case of the prosecution over the misuse of P366 million confidential fund of the PCSO from 2008 to 2010.
“There was no clear and indubitable proof presented by the prosecution that accused PGMA was the recipient. As a matter of fact, there was no evidence introduced on who made the payment,” the two separate resolutions said.
Arroyo was charged with one count each of violation of Section 3 (g) and 3 (i) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 7 (d) of RA 6713 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees in connection with the NBN deal, which was allegedly overpriced by more than 50 percent of its actual cost of $130 million.
In clearing Arroyo of graft and ethics cases, the anti-graft court said the prosecution failed to establish the element of interest for personal gain in the NBN project, which required the discretionary approval of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board which Mrs. Arroyo chaired when she was President.
The justices also said that Mrs. Arroyo cannot be held liable for an ethics violation for having lunch and playing golf with ZTE officials in Shenzhen, China in November 2006, contrary to the prosecution’s argument.
Abalos and former NEDA Chief Romulo Neri have already been cleared in the case.