Thursday, January 12, 2012

News Update Gloria Arroyo, three others facing graft charges barred from travel

The Sandiganbayan 4th Division has issued a hold departure order (HDO) against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel, and two former officials of her administration in connection with graft charges filed against them. Former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos were also named in the HDO, GMA News TV's "Balitanghali" reported Tuesday. In a phone interview on Tuesday, Sandiganbayan Fourth Division executive clerk of court Atty. Joffre Gil Zapata told GMA News Online the one-page HDO was issued Monday afternoon by Associate Justices Gregory Ong, Jose Hernandez, and Maria Cristina Cornejo. Mrs. Arroyo, now a congresswoman, is facing two counts of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and one count of violating RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the botched $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal with the Chinese firm ZTE Corp. She is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in connection with electoral sabotage case filed against her by the Commission on Elections on Dec. 7. Mr. Arroyo, Mendoza, and Abalos are also facing one count each of violating RA 3019 in connection with the NBN deal. The NBN-ZTE deal The Philippine National Broadband Network controversy (also known as the NBN/ZTE deal) involved allegations of corruption in awarding China’s telecommunications giant ZTE the contract to build a nationwide connectivity network. (See the ZTE controversy timeline here.) The contract with ZTE was signed on April 20, 2007 in Hainan, China, but Mrs. Arroyo was forced to cancel the project in October 2007 when accusations of irregularities were made public. Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman filed two graft cases against Mrs. Arroyo for the NBN-ZTE deal, saying the former President allowed the contract with ZTE to be signed even though she was “fully aware” of the irregularities involved. The cases were raffled off to the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division on Monday. Ombudsman failed to comply with procedure Zapata noted, however, no schedule has been set so far to hear the case because the Ombudsman failed to comply with one vital procedure. He explained that the Office of the Ombudsman was supposed to give the accused five days to file a motion for reconsideration against its resolution. "Ang determination ng court ‘di sila nabigyan ng ganyang pagkakataon. Karapatan nila ‘yun, pero puwede din nila i-waive," he said. The case will be brought back to them once this procedure has been fulfilled, Zapata noted. Once this requisite is met, the Sandiganbayan will determine the need for a warrant of arrest. Mrs. Arroyo was arrested at the St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City on Nov. 18, the same day the Comelec filed an electoral sabotage case against her for the alleged rigging of the 2007 polls. She was confined at St. Luke’s for a bone problem. Mrs. Arroyo’s camp has yet to comment on the graft charges. — KBK/VS